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Press Release

LGBT Americans See Significant Advances Alongside Ongoing Inequality

MAP's 2011 Momentum Report, New Online Equality Maps Highlight Challenges Amid Accelerating Change

August 3, 2011

DENVER, CO—The latest advances in equality—such as marriage for gay couples in New York, certification of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, and the passage of transgender-inclusive non-discrimination protections in Connecticut—are fueling optimism about the pace of change for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people; at the same time, LGBT Americans in the majority of states still face inequities, hardships, and laws that are hostile to their well-being, according to the new Momentum Report by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).

“There has been a tremendous amount of important progress over the last few years,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “But the kind of momentum we’re seeing can be a double-edged sword. While it has provided vital protections for gay and transgender people and their families, it can also bring with it a risk of complacency, and potentially the false belief that LGBT people are actually equal.”

MAP’s 2011 Momentum Report, available online at, finds significant advances in equality for LGBT people since the beginning of 2009 across a number of key areas, including:

  • Increasing public support. For example, since August 2010, six national polls have found majority support for allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry.
  • Expansion of marriage or relationship recognition for gay couples. Four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont) and D.C. have extended marriage, and six (Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Nevada, Rhode Island and Washington State) have extended comprehensive relationship recognition through civil unions or domestic partnerships.
  • Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Beginning in September, gay, lesbian and bi military personnel are expected to be able to openly serve their country.
  • Adoption bans struck down. Courts in Arkansas and Florida have struck down statewide bans on adoption by gay parents.
  • New non-discrimination and anti-bullying protections. Four more states included gay and/or transgender people in their non-discrimination laws, while six more states passed safe schools or anti-bullying laws.
  • Positive Obama administration policies. New federal policies now allow gay and lesbian partners to visit their loved ones in the hospital and ensure that LGBT parents can take time off to care for their children; in addition, immigration and travel bans for individuals living with HIV/AIDS were lifted.

The Momentum Report also highlights some of the most significant inequities LGBT people continue to face amid this progress, both in specific regions and across the U.S.:

  • Committed gay and lesbian couples still have no legal protections in 30 states.
  • Employees can still be unfairly fired in 29 states just because they’re gay—and transgender employees can be unfairly fired in 35 states.
  • 32 states lack safe schools laws that prohibit bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation, and 35 states lack similar laws based on gender identity.
  • Seven states effectively ban second-parent adoption (up from four states in 2001), with North Carolina recently rolling back second-parent adoption by a court ruling.
  • The federal government’s refusal to recognize gay and lesbian couples means that even couples who legally marry in their state are denied fundamental protections such as family health insurance and certain Social Security benefits—and generally pay more taxes on the same household income.
  • Employment discrimination, inequitable access to government safety net programs, and unfair taxation affect the economic security of LGBT people. Contrary to stereotypes, LGBT Americans are more likely to live in poverty and less likely to have health insurance.

“The advances since 2009 give us good reason to be optimistic,” Mushovic said. “But we must be careful to not allow this accelerating progress to obscure the experiences of millions of gay and transgender Americans who still live in daily fear of being unfairly fired from their jobs, enduring harassment or physical violence, facing a medical crisis without their partner standing by, or losing custody of a child, just because of who they are.”

In conjunction with the release of the Momentum Report, MAP unveiled its new web-based Equality Maps (available online at, which provide up-to-date information on the status of state laws across a wide range of issues.

MAP’s biennial Momentum Report measures progress toward the LGBT movement’s goal of equal opportunities, rights and responsibilities for all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. The report measures four broad areas of progress: changes in the social and political climate, progress on key policy issues, improvements in the lived experiences of LGBT Americans, and the strength and capacity of LGBT movement organizations.

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MAP's mission is to provide independent and rigorous research, insight and communications that help speed equality and opportunity for all. MAP works to ensure that all people have a fair chance to pursue health and happiness, earn a living, take care of the ones they love, be safe in their communities, and participate in civic life.

Sean Lund
Movement Advancement Project

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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