Dalila Ali Rajah
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Person of the Year: The Finalists

We limited ourselves to selecting the 10 people who were most influential on LGBT lives during 2014, and the resulting list represents ongoing changes happening worldwide. This was a landmark year for the spread of marriage equality but also for visibility of the full spectrum of LGBT people, and the list reflects progress and struggles culturally, in courtrooms, and more. 

Who is The Advocate's Person of the Year? (Find out here.) The selection was revealed during The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on Thursday. Here are nine other runners-up for the title.


POTY Tim Cook 0

Tim Cook: Leading By Example And By Lobbying

Tim Cook is a late addition to the list, one who couldn't be considered for the cover having came out less than a week ago. But there's no question the first out CEO of a Fortune 500 company would make a list such as this merely for doing what no one else has dared to do. 

Still, that's not what makes the Apple CEO so influential in the lives of LGBT people. Yes, he helms a global brand so his example raises LGBT visibility worldwide, and his coming out inspired a rash of irrational responses that remind us living openly is especially dangerous in some places. Take Russia, for example, where a statue of Steve Jobs in St. Petersburg was removed because it suddenly violates the antigay "propaganda" law. Plus, Vitaly Milonov, a key author of Russia's ban on "nontraditional sexual relations," wants to ban Cook from the country because, “What could he bring us? The Ebola virus, AIDS, gonorrhea?" 

Even before coming out in an essay in Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Cook had been advocating for workplace protections for LGBT employees. He called on Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, and then on Twitter. He spoke about the subject while accepting Auburn University's Life Time Achievement Award and in a speech before lawmakers in his home state of Alabama, where he was being inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor. 

And earlier this year when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer had to decide whether to sign legislation that would have created a broad "license to discriminate" for employers, business owners and service providers, Cook's company formally requested she veto it. The request was made against the backdrop of plans for a new manufacturing plant in Arizona expected to create more than 2,000 jobs. 

Cook may have been silent publicly about his own sexual orientation until last week, but he was never quiet about whether LGBT workers deserve the security of knowing they can't be fired for who they love or who they marry.

"Protections that promote equality and diversity should not be conditional on someone's sexual orientation," Cook wrote in his Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2013. Then in his coming out essay, Cook showed he's aware his example might make more of a difference than any of his lobbying. 

"I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: 'Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ I often challenge myself with that question," wrote Cook, "and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today." —Lucas Grindley


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