New Democracy Maps

Report: LGBT Americans Still Face Widespread Inequality

In Wake of Marriage Victories, Publication Outlines the Need for Crucial Legal Protections

 Washington D.C., December 9, 2014—Despite growing support for equality, the stakes are high for the estimated almost nine million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans whose daily lives are limited by a lack of state and federal protections. According to a new publication released today, LGBT Americans live in a two-tier system where they must navigate vastly differing state laws coupled with an ongoing lack of protections under federal law. For example, same-sex couples can now marry in 34 states, but a lack of widespread nondiscrimination protections means wearing a wedding ring to work can result in a gay worker being legally fired in 29 states. In most states, LGBT people can also still be refused service and denied housing, and there are no laws protecting LGBT students against bullying in schools.

Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Americans is a primer introducing the major areas in which LGBT Americans face legal barriers to fully participating in life and provides a summary of what advocates are doing to work for change. The resource was developed by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP), GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

“LGBT people are included in the federal hate crimes law; but fewer than half of states have passing or expanding laws which aim to protect LGBT individuals from bullying in schools or discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations like restaurants and stores,” said MAP Executive Director Ineke Mushovic. “The reality is that LGBT Americans are still not equal under the law, and are at extreme risk in low-equality states. Their economic security is at risk, their jobs are at risk, and even their physical safety is at risk.”

Many LGBT people experience discrimination when simply going about their daily activities–whether eating at a diner with their families or friends, trying to obtain safe, affordable housing or applying for a loan.

“Instituting basic protections is long overdue,” said Laura E. Durso, Director of CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project. “LGBT workers often cannot extend their health insurance coverage to their partners or children. Without family and marriage tax deductions, LGBT families may pay additional taxes while having reduced access to benefits like Social Security survivor benefits. Due to these and myriad other inequalities, LGBT people are more likely to live in poverty and suffer from health disparities. It is time to address these harmful inequities by ensuring equal protection under the law.”

"Despite significant progress toward greater equality for LGBT Americans, too many members of the LGBT community still face discrimination at home, at work, at school and in public places,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “Until every LGBT American has equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream, we must continue to promote social, legal and institutional change.”

“It is vital that we raise awareness about the many ways LGBT people are harmed by a lack of legal protections,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “This guide is a welcome resource to help have important conversations that will open hearts and minds.”

# # #

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.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

GLAAD amplifies the voice of the LGBT community by empowering real people to share their stories, holding the media accountable for the words and images they present, and helping grassroots organizations communicate effectively. By ensuring that the stories of LGBT people are heard through the media, GLAAD promotes understanding, increases acceptance, and advances equality.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Media Contacts:
Calla Rongerude
Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
(415) 205-2420

Tom Caiazza
Center for American Progress
(201) 481-7141

Seth Adam
(646) 871-8018

Stephen Peters
Human Rights Campaign
(202) 423-2680

Stay Informed

Be the first to know about new reports and MAP news by signing up for our newsletter

Request User Access

A limited set of materials is restricted to the staff and board members of LGBTQ movement organizations. Click below to request user access.

Join MAP

View our privacy policy.

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.

Choose an Issue