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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.



Americans are growing more supportive of LGBT people and their equality. Today, overwhelming majorities of the general public favor non-discrimination laws, inclusive hate crime laws, comprehensive anti-bullying laws, and relationship recognition for gay and lesbian couples. In addition, states and cities across the country have successfully enacted laws that are improving the lives of LGBT people. These remarkable advances often are forgotten as the LGBT movement continues its work against unequal treatment, discrimination and violence.

MAP tracks and analyzes the LGBT movement’s progress, examining where LGBT Americans stand on the path to equality, the progress made to date, and what lies ahead as the movement continues its work to achieve the vision of equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. By tracking the movement’s progress over time, MAP provides LGBT organizations and advocates with the data, information and perspectives they need to evaluate priorities and strategies and determine where to focus attention and resources.

In addition, MAP's Understanding Issues series introduces the major areas in which LGBT Americans face barriers to fully participating in life, and also provides a summary of what advocates are doing to work for change.

Related Resources


Momentum Report: Progress and Setbacks for LGBT Equality

January 2015 - MAP's Momentum Report tracks indicators of the LGBT movement’s success in the pursuit of legal and social equality for LGBT Americans. The 2014 report examines some of the highlights and lowlights in the journey towards LGBT equality over the past year, including several areas of protection for LGBT people: marriage, health, transgender equality, and other progress.


Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans

February 2015 - Coauthored by the Movement Advancement Project, the Transgender Law Center, and the National Center for Transgender Equality, with partnership by GLAAD, Understanding Issues Facing Transgender Americans provides a high-level introduction for advocates and allies to the issues facing transgender Americans, as well as recommendations for change.


Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Americans

December 2014 - Published by MAP, the Center for American, Progress, GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign, Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Americans is a short primer that summarizes the major areas in which unfair laws and stigma create extra burdens for LGBT Americans. The guide also includes policy recommendations to address these harmful disparities and to improve the lives of LGBT Americans.


Understanding Issues Facing Bisexual Americans

September 2014 - Co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, BiNet USA and the Bisexual Resource Center, Understanding Issues Facing Bisexual Americans is a new resource offering an overview of the economic and health disparities facing the bisexual community, and recommendations for supporting bisexual people through advocacy, research and programming.


Video: The LGBT Movement Today

March 2011 - Ineke Mushovic, executive director of the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), and Brad Sears, executive director of The Williams Institute, open OutGiving 2011 with a comprehensive look at the movement for LGBT equality—its goals, its progress, its challenges, and where it stands today. (Note: The LGBT Movement Today was developed and presented in March 2011 and reflects state and federal laws and policies at that time.)


A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights

December 2009 - A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights, prepared by MAP and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr., Fund, tracks 36 indicators of legal and social progress over the decade from 2000-2010, a period of dramatic gains in equality for LGBT people in the United States. By looking at the entire decade, this brief report offers new insights and a broad perspective on where the LGBT movement is today—and how far it came in just 10 years.

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