New Democracy Maps

A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights

The Bottom Line

Remarkable movement toward equality for LGBT people tends to be obscured by day-to-day struggles over hot-button issues. This report provides a fuller perspective on the movement’s progress by examining dramatic gains made in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009 across 36 benchmarks. Two-thirds of these benchmarks show significant advances, including sharp increases in the number of LGBT Americans protected by nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws at the state level. Less than one-quarter of the indicators are negative, and four metrics show little change, either positive or negative.

  • A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights Download

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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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