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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.

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Amid Historic Marriage Advances, Most States Still Fail to Offer Basic Protections to LGBT Americans

MAP's 2014 Momentum Report Finds Mixed and Often Stalled Progress in Critical Areas.

Denver, CO; January 28, 2014—When it comes to marriage for same-sex couples, the past two years have brought some astonishing changes. In 2012 and 2013, 11 additional states extended the freedom to marry, while the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), resulting in federal recognition of married same-sex couples across the nation.

Yet in the midst of these historic gains, the Movement Advancement Project’s newly released 2014 Momentum Report observes that there have been fewer advances in many other areas critical to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans. For example, no new states passed laws explicitly protecting LGBT students from bullying. Similarly, over half of states still lack legislation protecting LGBT Americans from employment discrimination—and no new states passed such legislation in the last two years (though Delaware updated their law to include transgender workers).

MAP’s biennial Momentum Report details progress in the LGBT movement’s wide-ranging pursuit of fair and equal opportunity for LGBT Americans, the work left to be done, and the relatively slow advances in other areas of LGBT equality. The new report analyzes progress in 2012 and 2013 across nine different areas affecting LGBT people.

“If you look at the 17 states that extend the freedom to marry, marriage was the culmination of a years-long journey that first included passing employment nondiscrimination protections, hate crime laws, safe schools legislation, and more,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP. “Yet over half of states either haven’t begun or are just in the beginning phases of this journey. They often lack even the most basic statewide legal protections, meaning gay workers can be fired just because of who they are, transgender youth can face unchecked bullying in schools, and LGBT parents can remain legal strangers to their children. These low-equality states are home to half of the nation’s LGBT population, including many who experience extreme discrimination and high rates of poverty, but who are often bound to stay by their jobs and love for their communities and families.”

Among the report’s findings from 2012-2013:

1. Marriage & Relationship Recognition

  • 11 additional states extended the freedom to marry, bringing the total to 17 plus the District of Columbia.
  • The Supreme Court effectively invalidated Proposition 8, California’s marriage ban, and struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), requiring the federal government to recognize married same-sex couples.

2. Employment Nondiscrimination

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that transgender workers can file claims for sex discrimination.
  • The U.S. Senate passed the LGBT-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
  • State employment nondiscrimination efforts stalled in Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming, leaving 29 states without laws protecting LGBT workers.

3. Parental Recognition and Adoption Laws

  • Passage of marriage or comprehensive relationship recognition in Maryland (2012), Colorado (2013), Minnesota (2013), and New Mexico (2013) means that legally recognized same-sex couples in 21 states plus D.C. can petition for joint adoption.
  • The Kansas Court of Appeals ruled that the state does not permit second-parent adoptions.

4. Immigration and Travel

  • The Supreme Court’s decision striking down Section 3 of DOMA means that Americans can sponsor their same-sex spouse for citizenship or permanent residence.
  • Comprehensive immigration reform remains stalled in Congress, leaving millions of immigrants, including those who are LGBT, living in limbo.

5. Safe Schools and Anti-Bullying Laws

  • GLSEN’s 2012 National School Climate Survey showed decreased levels of biased language and victimization reported by the nation’s LGBT high school students.
  • No new states passed safe schools laws; only 19 states and the District of Columbia have such laws protecting LGBT students.

6. Hate Crimes

  • Congress passed an LGBT-inclusive Violence Against Women Act.

7. Health and HIV/AIDS

  • The Department of Health and Human Services clarified that the Affordable Care Act prohibits discrimination based on sex in the provision of health insurance, including on the basis of transgender status.
  • California and New Jersey banned conversion therapy for minors.
  • HIV/AIDS continues to be a significant and growing problem, with incidence of infection rising among gay men and transgender women, and in particular, gay men of color and transgender women of color.

8. Identity Documents

  • The Veterans Health Administration and the Social Security Administration eased restrictions for changing one’s gender marker on documents.
  • California and the District of Columbia passed laws easing process for changing one’s gender marker on birth certificates.

9. Public Service & Cultural Visibility

  • The nation is currently served by a record-high number of out LGBT public officials, including the first openly lesbian U.S. senator.

“The Momentum Report provides an important reminder that LGBT Americans and their families still face many critical challenges,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. “From passing nondiscrimination laws to creating safe schools, from accessing quality health care to ensuring legal protections for LGBT families, the legislatures in over half of the states have failed to secure even the most basic level of equality for their LGBT citizens—causing many cities and counties to take local action to help address these gaps."

“This is about basic human dignity,” said Elyzabeth Holford, executive director of Equality Ohio. “Many of our volunteers tell us they live in constant fear of being fired. They just want the opportunity to do their jobs and provide for their families. Mentioning or being seen with their families means they risk being fired. We know most Ohioan businesses and managers believe in treating people fairly, but when that good judgment breaks down, LGBT workers need basic protections under the law.”

“This report highlights a reality that LGBT Americans in Idaho know only too well,” says Monica Hopkins, executive director of the ACLU of Idaho. “While we have had some success in passing municipal nondiscrimination protections, we need to continue to build critical local-level support. We receive weekly calls from LGBT residents who have been unfairly fired, denied housing, or who want to adopt the children they are raising with their partner—and there is usually very little we can do.”

The Movement Advancement Project is an independent think tank that provides rigorous research, insight and analysis that help speed equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Media Contacts:
Calla Rongerude
Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
(415) 205-2420
calla@lgbtmap.org

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