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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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Policy & Issue Analysis


There more than 11 million LGBT adults in the United States. LGBT Americans live in 99% of U.S. counties and are racially and ethnically diverse. Like other people, LGBT people in the United States want to provide for their families, contribute to their communities, and fully participate in American life.

MAP works to uncover how inequitable and prejudicial laws have a negative effect on LGBT people’s lives—and what needs to happen to make things better. So what is it that LGBT Americans want? It’s simple:

Incomes and Jobs. LGBT people want the same opportunities as everyone else to earn a living. This won’t happen until employers can no longer legally fire LGBT Americans just because of who they are.

Families and Community. LGBT people want to be able to take care of those they love. The lack of access to marriage until 2015 means that many LGBT families may still lack crucial legal recognition. And while LGBT parents can now secure legal ties to their children, and same-sex couples can marry in all 50 states, efforts to undermine these vital legal protections are increasing.

Safety. LGBT people want to be safe in their communities. This means walking down the street without fear of harassment or assault. It means feeling safe in public schools, and not being subject to bullying and violence. It also means finding a safe place to worship.

Public and Military Service. LGBT people want the same opportunities as others to serve their country and their communities. Social stigma makes it harder to participate in civic groups and run for office. It can make it harder to volunteer. It can make it difficult to serve openly in the armed forces.


MAP Resources

Introductory Series

MAP's Introductory Series provides broad overviews into the lives, experiences, disparities, and strengths of LGBT Americans, transgender Americans, and bisexual Americans.

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Religious Exemptions

Religious exemption laws permit people, churches, non-profit organizations, and sometimes corporations to seek exemptions from state laws that burden their religious beliefs. The resources on this page look at the landscape of state religious exemption laws and how they impact the lives of LGBT people.


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LGBT Policy Spotlight Reports

LGBT Policy Spotlight Reports are an ongoing series that will provide in-depth analyses of laws and policies tracked at the Movement Advancement Project’s equality maps.

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For More

To find all of our policy resources, please use the drop-down menus under the Policy tab in the ribbon at the top of the site. Our resources are sorted by population and by issue. To see a list of our policy resources in chronological order, click below.

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