New Democracy Maps

LGBT Policy Spotlights

MAP’s Policy Spotlight Reports are an ongoing series providing in-depth analyses of laws and policies tracked on the Equality Maps. As a result of the uneven and uncertain progress for LGBT equality, LGBT people in America face an almost incomprehensible patchwork of laws. An LGBT individual or family may have a high level of legal equality in one state, while their LGBT counterparts in a neighboring state face only hostile or negative laws.

Each Spotlight Report examines one set of laws and policies impacting the lives of LGBT people in America. LGBT people simply want a fair chance to earn a living, be healthy and safe in their communities, and take care of the ones they love. Unfortunately, LGBT people in the United States and their families face a significant barrier to achieving these goals. That barrier is a lack of equality under the law.

Related Resources


LGBTQ Policy Spotlight: Mapping LGBTQ Equality in the U.S. South

May 2020 - This report details how a dearth of progressive laws and policies in 14 Southern states has led to distinct challenges along with unique opportunities for advancing legal equality for LGBTQ people in the region.


LGBT Policy Spotlight: LGBT Equality in the U.S. Territories

June 2019 - The United States' long history of territorial expansion has resulted in a truly complicated system of governance for territory residents, where even the U.S. Constitution doesn’t always apply. Examining each of the five territories across the more than 38 laws and policies tracked by MAP offers just one metric of LGBT people’s experiences in these territories.


LGBT Policy Spotlight: Public Accommodations Nondiscrimination Laws

January 2018 - This spotlight report provides a comprehensive overview of the patchwork of federal, state, and local protections against discrimination in public spaces, and how this puts LGBT people at risk.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
Conversion Therapy Bans

July 2017 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: Conversion Therapy Bans offers an overview of laws protecting LGBT youth from conversion therapy practices that attempt to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. These practices have been widely discredited and renounced, including by groups like the American Psychological Association.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
HIV Criminalization Laws

December 2016 - This LGBT Policy Spotlight focuses on HIV criminalization laws, which can carry harsh penalties for behaviors now proven to have no risk of transmitting HIV. These laws endanger public health by perpetuating dangerous stigma and misinformation about HIV, creating a strong disincentive for individuals to find out their HIV status, and disproportionately targeting LGBT people.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
Identity Documents Laws and Policies

November 2015 - This LGBT Policy Spotlight examines the state laws and policies that govern the processes by which transgender people are able to correct the name and gender marker on their identity documents to match the gender the person lives every day. The brief includes common sense policy recommendations to help ensure transgender people can access accurate identity documents.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People

October 2015 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People examines federal, state, and local laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination, the perfect tool to educate everyone from elected officials to classmates to family and friends about the important need for basic protections.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
Local Employment Nondiscrimination Ordinances

October 2015 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: Local Employment Nondiscrimination Ordinances examines city and county nondiscrimination ordinances (NDOs) that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment. The report details where these ordinances are geographically, their growth over time, and the gaps in coverage that remain.


LGBT Policy Spotlight
State and Federal Religious Exemptions

September 2015 - LGBT Policy Spotlight: State and Federal Religious Exemptions and the LGBT Community examines how state and federal religious exemption laws are being used to harm a broad range of people, interfere with law enforcement, and undermine the rule of law.

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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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