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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.



LGBT people in the United States want the same chance as everyone else to marry the person they love and take care of their families. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples nationwide should have the same freedom to marry as other couples. Not only can same-sex couples now marry, but they can also access the vital rights and benefits that are related to marriage, including being able to take job-protected leave from work to care for one another, to accessing insurance and other benefits, and the ability to secure legal ties to the children they are raising.

Despite being able to marry nationwide, efforts are underway to undermine marriage equality by allowing individuals, employers, and even government agencies to refuse to recognize the marriages of couples and the related rights and benefits for their families. The following resources address the crucial importance of marriage equality for same-sex couples and their families and look at the impact the freedom to marry had on equality across the country.

Related Resources


Putting Children at Risk: How Efforts to Undermine Marriage Equality Harm Children

June 2018 – Authored by MAP and the Family Equality Council Putting Children at Risk: How Efforts to Undermine Marriage Equality Harm Children highlights how recent efforts to undermine marriage equality and protections for LGBT families pose a profound threat to the children in these families.


Marriage & Relationship Recognition Laws: Positive Laws map

August 2016 - States with the freedom to marry do not ban same-sex couples from entering into legal marriages. Some states also offer comprehensive relationship recognition, such as domestic partnerships or civil unions, to same- and opposite-sex couples. Laws allowing same-sex couples to marry can also benefit bisexual and transgender people in same-sex relationships.


Mapping LGBT Equality in America After Marriage Equality: Infographics

June 2015 - Infographics drawn from the report Mapping LGBT Equality in America, but updated following the Supreme Court's decision extending the freedom to marry to all Americans.


An Ally's Guide to Talking About Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

April 2014 - To build and sustain support for the freedom to marry, focus on the values of marriage, emphasize why caring people don't deny others the chance of happiness in marriage, share stories of the journey to support, and more.

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