State, Local Laws Continue to Discriminate Against LGBT Families

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court issues a ruling this month granting same-sex couples the right to marry, the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender couples would continue to face discrimination under state and local laws, a report from the Movement Advancement Project finds.

Based on an analysis of existing laws and policies governing sexual orientation- and gender identity-related protections, the study, Mapping LGBT Equality in America (40 pages, PDF), found the level of LGBT equality to be "high" in twelve states and the District of Columbia (where 39 percent of the LGBT population lives), "medium" in ten states (9 percent), "low" in thirteen states (23 percent), and "negative" in fifteen states (29 percent). While a Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage would shift twelve states from "negative" to "low," state and local laws would continue to put a majority (52 percent) of LGBT individuals at risk of being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, or denied access to doctor's offices and restaurants because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. A ruling in favor of marriage equality also would do nothing to protect the almost nine out ten (86 percent)  LGBT individuals who live in states where their children are not protected from discrimination in school for having LGBT parents, or the eight out ten (81 percent) who live in states where harmful "conversion therapy" is permitted.

Funded in part by the Bohnett, Ford, Geffen, Gill, Johnson Family, H. van Ameringen, and Wild Geese foundations and the Palette Fund, the report includes state-by-state tallies of laws and policies in each category of protection, including marriage and relationship recognition, adoption and parenting, non-discrimination, safe schools, health and safety, and ability of transgender individuals to correct their gender on identity documents.

"Without question, a victory at the Supreme Court would be transformative in helping advance equality for LGBT people," said MAP executive director Ineke Mushovic. "However, many other laws are needed to fully protect LGBT people and their families. For example, while same-sex couples may soon be able to marry in their home state, that same state’s laws may fail to protect LGBT youth from being bullied in schools, lack non-discrimination laws covering LGBT workers, or lack laws and policies that help transgender people update the gender marker on their identity documents. One state may have high equality while a neighboring state has hostile laws, or a state may have high levels of equality for gay, lesbian, and bisexual people while offering almost no legal protections to transgender people."

"As SCOTUS Marriage Decision Looms, New Report Maps LGBT Equality State by State." Movement Advancement Project Press Release 05/28/2015.