LGBTQ: The term “LGBTQ” stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer, though the acronym can also refer to and include other sexual orientations or gender identities that are not explicitly listed in the acronym.
Sexual Orientation: The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction (or lack thereof) to other people. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and other non-heterosexual people. That said, transgender people who are also lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.
Gender Identity: “Gender identity” is a person's deeply-felt inner sense of their own gender, including being male, female, or something else or in-between. For transgender people, their gender identity typically does not match the sex they were thought to be at birth. “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 each independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or another orientation. 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 self or gender expression does not adhere to gender stereotypes.
As of November 1, 2021, MAP tracks nearly 50 LGBTQ-related laws and policies in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the five populated U.S. territories. For each of these policies, MAP assigns a score or point value, and then adds these scores to create a "policy tally" for each state. The policy tally is also divided into simple categories (negative, low, fair, medium, and high) to be able to quickly and easily compare the overall LGBTQ policy climate across the country.
The major categories of laws covered by the policy tally currently include:
Harmful or discriminatory policies earn negative points or point deductions, while LGBTQ-inclusive or protective laws earn positive points. Fractions of a point may be awarded for states that have enacted a portion of a law, or in cases where local laws provide some protection but do not cover the entire state population.Policies are evaluated and scored based on their relevance to sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, each state has three tallies: a Sexual Orientation tally, a Gender Identity tally, and then an Overall (combined) tally. Having both the sexual orientation and gender identity tallies illustrates how LGBQ-related versus transgender-related policies are differently progressing both within a state and across the country.
|Sexual Orientation Tally||Gender Identity Tally||Overall Tally|
(75-100% of total points possible)
(50-74.9% of total points possible)
|10.25 to 15.25||11 to 16.25|| 21.25 to 31.75|
(25-49.9% of total points possible)
|5.25 to 10||5.5 to 10.75||10.75 to 21|
(0-24.9% of total points possible)
|0 to 5||0 to 5.25||0 to 10.5|
Total points possible
Note that the tallies look only at existing laws. They do not look at the social climate, nor do they take into account implementation of each state's laws. The tally also does not reflect the efforts of advocates and/or opportunities for future change. States with low tallies might shift rapidly with an influx of resources, and states with higher tallies might continue to expand equality for LGBTQ people in ways that can provide models for other states.