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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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Gay/Trans Panic Defense Bans

The so-called "gay and trans panic" defenses are legal strategies which, according to the American Bar Association, "seek to partially or completely excuse crimes such as murder and assault on the grounds that the victim's sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for the defendant's violent reaction." Research by the Williams Institute shows that "no state recognizes gay and trans panic defenses as freestanding defenses under their respective penal codes," but defendants have used panic defenses in conjunction with other defense strategies to attempt to reduce the severity of their charges or sentencing.

These defenses are based in irrational fears and prejudice toward LGBT people, and they imply that violence against LGBT people is acceptable or understandable under certain conditions. The American Bar Association issued a unanimous resolution in 2013 calling on "federal, tribal, state, local, and territorial governments" to prohibit the use of this defense, but many states still permit this practice, as shown in the map below.

United States Map
Vermont New Hampshire Washington D.C. Maryland Delaware New Jersey Connecticut Rhode Island Massachusetts Alaska Hawaii California Oregon Washington Nevada Utah Arizona Idaho Montana Wyoming Colorado 33 Texas North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Minnesota Iowa Louisiana Arkansas Missouri Mississippi Florida Georgia Tennessee South Carolina North Carolina Wisconsin Illinois Michigan Indiana Kentucky Ohio West Virginia Maine New York Pennsylvania Virginia Vermont New Hampshire American Samoa Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Guam Puerto Rico U.S. Virgin Islands
  • State prohibits the use of legal defenses claiming the victim's sexual orientation and/or gender identity contributed to the defendant's actions (so-called "gay/trans panic" defenses)(5 states, 0 territories)
  • State does not prohibit the use of legal defenses claiming the victim's sexual orientation and/or gender identity contributed to the defendant's actions (45 states, 5 territories + D.C.)

Percent of Adult LGBT Population Covered by Laws

*Note: These percentages reflect estimates of the LGBT adult population living in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Estimates of the LGBT adult population in the five inhabited U.S. territories are not available, and so cannot be reflected here.

21%

21 % of LGBT population lives in states that prohibit the use of legal defenses claiming the victim's sexual orientation and/or gender identity contributed to the defendant's actions

79%

79 % of LGBT population lives in states that do not prohibit the use of legal defenses claiming the victim's sexual orientation and/or gender identity contributed to the defendant's actions

Key
  • State has law that only covers sexual orientationLaw covers sexual orientation
  • State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identityLaw covers sexual orientation and gender identity/expression
State Panic Defense Ban Year Passed
  Citations
Alabama
Alaska
American Samoa
Arizona
Arkansas
California
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
2014
Colorado
Connecticut
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
2019
Delaware
District of Columbia
Florida
Georgia
Guam
Hawaii
Idaho
Illinois
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
2017
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Maryland
Massachusetts
Michigan
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
2019
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Northern Mariana Islands
Ohio
Oklahoma
Oregon
Pennsylvania
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
State has law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity
2018
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas
U.S. Virgin Islands
Utah
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wyoming


Data current as of 06/25/2019
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