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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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LGBT Workers of Color Are Among the Most Disadvantaged in the U.S. Workforce

Groundbreaking Report from Broad Coalition Explores Barriers to Good Jobs for LGBT Workers of Color

Washington, D.C.—According to a new report released today, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers of color are among the most disadvantaged workers in America. Due to discrimination combined with a lack of workplace protections, unequal job benefits and taxation, and unsafe, under-resourced U.S. schools, LGBT people of color face extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty.

A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color, a companion to the recently released report, A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits, and More Taxes for LGBT Workers, is co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP) and its FIRE Initiative, Freedom to Work, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), and the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), in partnership with Color of Change, the Leadership Conference Education Fund, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Action Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, and SEIU.

The report is available online at www.lgbtmap.org/workers-of-color.

LGBT People Are More Racially and Ethnically Diverse Than the U.S. Population as a Whole

A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color presents the latest demographic information about LGBT workers of color, including:

  • About one-third of LGBT people are people of color. In a 2012 Gallup poll, one in three LGBT respondents (33%) identified themselves as people of color, compared to 27% of non-LGBT respondents. In all, there are an estimated 5.4 million LGBT workers in the United States, of which 1.8 million are people of color.
  • The geographic distribution of LGBT workers of color mirrors that of people of color as a whole. Census Data show LGBT people of color are more likely to live in areas with significant numbers of other people of color.
  • Large numbers of LGBT workers of color are raising children. Data from the 2010 Census show that LGBT people of color are more likely to be raising children than white LGBT people. MAP estimates that between 780,000 and 1.1 million children are being raised by LGBT people of color.
  • LGBT youth of color are at high risk of becoming homeless. An estimated 20-40% of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT or believe they may be LGBT. Research also shows that African American and Native American young people are overrepresented among LGBT homeless youth, as well as the broader homeless population. One study found that among homeless youth who identify as gay or lesbian, 44% identified as black and 26% as Latino.
  • LGBT workers of color are at significant risk of being unemployed. LGBT people of color have higher rates of unemployment compared to non-LGBT people of color. In addition, unemployment rates for transgender people of color have reached as high as four times the national unemployment rate.
  • LGBT workers of color are at significant risk of poverty. Research shows that LGBT people of color, and particularly black LGBT people, are at a much higher risk of poverty than non-LGBT people. For example, black same-sex couples have poverty rates at least twice the rate of black opposite-sex married couples (18% vs. 8%).

“Contrary to popular stereotypes, LGBT workers are more racially diverse than the general population, making it critical to address the unique obstacles they face,” said Sharon Lettman-Hicks, Executive Director and CEO of the National Black Justice Coalition. “Bias and prejudice based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity/expression intersect to the detriment of LGBT workers of color.”

LGBT Workers of Color Confront a Dual Burden of Social Stigma and Discrimination

“Systemic barriers and inequities in the educational system make it harder for LGBT people of color to meet workforce qualifications,” said Ineke Mushovic, Executive Director of the Movement Advancement Project. “LGBT workers of color are also unfairly denied or lack access to job-related benefits that other workers take for granted, making it harder for these workers to earn a living and provide for their families.”

A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color examines how LGBT workers of color face unique challenges related to their race and ethnicity and their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in three areas:

  • Educational Barriers: LGBT youth of color are among the children who are most at risk of dropping through the cracks of the U.S. educational system. The reasons include: unsafe and under-resourced schools, a lack of support for LGBT students, and a school-to-prison pipeline that results in significant numbers of LGBT students of color entering the juvenile justice and correctional systems.
  • Hiring Bias and On-the-Job Discrimination: Barriers such as unwarranted background checks, inadequate or non-existent non-discrimination protection for LGBT workers, and the lack of mentorships and on-the-job support make it difficult for many LGBT workers of color to find good and steady jobs that provide them with the economic security they need to support themselves and their families.
  • Unequal Pay, Benefits and Taxation: LGBT workers of color receive unequal pay and unfair access to job-related benefits, leaving them with less to care for themselves and their families—even if they are doing the same jobs and working just as hard as other workers.

“While there are laws in place to help protect workers from discrimination based on race and ethnicity, it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire someone on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation in the majority of states,” said Winnie Stachelberg, Executive Vice President of External Affairs at the Center for American Progress. “Addressing this gap in federal law is one more step forward in the march for equality and justice for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation.”

Common-Sense Solutions Can Reduce Unfair Barriers to Success for LGBT Workers of Color

“Fixing the broken bargain for LGBT workers of color will help ensure that they are treated fairly no matter where they work, that they receive the same compensation for the same work, and that they can access important benefits available to other workers to protect their health and livelihood,” said Tico Almeida, President of Freedom to Work.

A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers offers detailed recommendations for action to fix the broken bargain for LGBT workers of color by the federal, state, and local governments, as well as colleges, universities, and employers. Recommendations include:

  • Eliminate or reduce educational barriers for LGBT youth of color by passing the federal Safe Schools Improvement Act (SSIA) and the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) in an effort to reduce discrimination and bullying in schools.
  • Eliminate or reduce bias and discrimination against LGBT workers of color by passing federal legislation to ban employment discrimination nationwide on the basis of gender identity/expression and sexual orientation.
  • Secure equal pay and benefits for LGBT workers of color by increasing federal and state protections against wage discrimination based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity/expression and increasing access to good jobs with good benefits for LGBT workers of color

“America has passed numerous laws and policies based on an understanding that protecting the interests of workers and their families is good for the economy and good for the country. It is time for those protections to extend to LGBT workers of color,” said Jeff Krehely, Vice President and Chief Foundation Officer at the Human Rights Campaign.

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Report Co-Authors

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. CAP’s FIRE Initiative works to eliminate the social, economic, and health disparities faced by LGBT people of color.

Freedom to Work is a national organization committed to banning workplace harassment and career discrimination against LGBT Americans through public education, policy analysis, and legal work.

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.

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.

The National Black Justice Coalition is a civil rights organization dedicated to empowering Black LGBT people. NBJC’s mission is to end racism and homophobia. As America’s leading national Black LGBT civil rights organization focused on federal public policy, NBJC has accepted the charge to lead conversations in the Black community to strengthen the bonds and bridge the gaps between the movements for racial justice and LGBT equality.

Report Partners

Color of Change  |  The Leadership Conference Education Fund  |  League of United Latin American Citizens  
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)  |  National Action Network  
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance  |  Out & Equal Workplace Advocates  |  SEIU

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

Sharon Lettman-Hicks
National Black Justice Coalition
(202) 520-0586

Preston Mitchum
Center for American Progress
(202) 481-8229

Paul Guequierre
Human Rights Campaign
(202) 423-2860

Tico Almeida
Freedom to Work
(917) 566-8871

en Español
Tanya Arditi
Center for American Progress

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