LGBT rights in the United States
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the United States are changing rapidly. While the United States Supreme Court has legalized many LGBT rights, others vary by jurisdiction. LGBT individuals still face some challenges, particularly in the Bible belt and rural areas.
|Status||Legal nationwide since 2003|
(Lawrence v. Texas) Legal in some areas since 1962
|Gender identity||Laws vary by jurisdiction|
"Don't ask, don't tell" policy repealed in September 20, 2011Most transgender people are banned from serving since April 12, 2019 (can only serve in basis of biological sex)
|Discrimination protections||Discrimination protections based on sexual orientation for employees in the federal civilian workforce, along with the government employment in the District of Columbia, and the United States Postal Service, since 1998 (see Executive Order 12968 and Executive Order 13087).|
Laws vary by jurisdiction, but most states lack protections against LGBT discrimination. Federal protections are proposed under the Equality Act.
|Recognition of relationships||Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide since 2015 except American Samoa and some tribal jurisdictions|
(Obergefell v. Hodges) Recognized by the federal government since 2013
(United States v. Windsor).
|Adoption||Legal in 50 states since 2016|
Sexual activity between consenting adults and adolescents of a close age of the same sex has been legal nationwide since Lawrence v. Texas (2003). The age of consent in each jurisdiction varies from 16 to 18, with some jurisdictions maintaining different ages of consent for males/females or for same-sex/opposite-sex relations.
Same-sex marriage has been legal nationwide since Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). This court decision also legalized adoption of children by same-sex married couples nationwide. Family law varies by state, and some states do not permit adoption by unmarried couples of any gender.
Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punishable by federal law under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
Some states outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and others based on gender identity or expression. While some federal executive orders forbid discrimination, their scope is limited, and there is no federal law forbidding this kind of discrimination. This leaves residents of some states unprotected against discrimination in employment, housing, and private or public services. The Equality Act, currently proposed in the United States Congress, would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide.
Civil rights for LGBT people in the United States are advocated by a variety of organizations at all levels and concentrations of political and legal life, including the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
- 1 Federally granted rights and protections
- 2 Recognition of marriage and adoption for same-sex families
- 3 Transgender rights in the United States
- 4 Intersex rights in the United States
- 5 United States Supreme Court decisions
- 6 U.S. political parties
- 7 Religious affiliations
- 8 Summary table of LGBT rights in the United States
- 9 State-by-state summary table of LGBT rights in the United States
- 10 Stonewall
- 11 Lesbian Movement
- 12 AIDS/HIV Epidemic
- 13 Gay Straight Alliance
- 14 See also
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
- 17 External links
- 18 Further reading
Federally granted rights and protectionsEdit
|Presently codified in U.S. federal law|
|Not presently codified in U.S. federal law|
|Present status unknown or ambiguous|
|LGBT Right||On the basis of gender identity or expression||On the basis of sexual orientation|
|Automatic co-parent recognition|
|Employment protections (federal
|(Since July 21, 2014)||(Since May 28, 1998)|
|Federal contractor employment protections||(Since July 21, 2014)||(Since July 21, 2014)|
|Hate crime law||(Since October 28, 2009)||(Since October 28, 2009)|
|Hate speech law|
|Health protections||(Since May 18, 2016)|
|Joint adoption||(Since May 3, 2016)|
|Medically assisted insemination for singles|
|Medically assisted insemination for couples|
|Military service||(since April 12, 2019) ||(Since September 20, 2011)|
|No laws limiting freedom of expression||(Since December 26, 2013)|
|Policy tackling hatred||(Since September 13, 1994)||(Since October 28, 2009)|
|Prohibition on conversion therapy for minors|
|Public accommodation protections|
|Same-sex marriage||(Since June 26, 2015)||(Since June 26, 2015)|
|Second-parent adoption||(Since May 3, 2016)||(Since May 3, 2016)|
The U.S. federal law does not include protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are considered by the United States Congress under the Equality Act.
On April 14, 2010, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order to the Department of Health and Human Services to draft new rules for all hospitals accepting Medicare or Medicaid funds. They would require facilities to grant visitation and medical decision-making rights to gay and lesbian partners, as well as designees of others such as widows and widowers. Such rights are not protected by law in many states. Obama said he was inspired by the case of a Florida family, where one of the mothers died while her partner and four children were denied visitation by the hospital.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) is an agency within the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development. FHEO is responsible for administering and enforcing federal fair housing laws and establishing policies that make sure all Americans have equal access to the housing of their choice. Housing discrimination refers to discrimination against potential or current tenants by landlords. In the United States, there is no federal law against such discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but at least twenty-two states and many major cities have enacted laws prohibiting it. See, for example, Washington House Bill 2661.
In 2012, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued a regulation called "Equal Access" to prohibit LGBT discrimination in federally-assisted housing programs. It ensures that the Department's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2019, however, there was an attempt to weaken the regulation.
The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity is responsible for enforcing a variety of fair housing laws, which prohibit discrimination in both privately owned and publicly assisted housing including:
- The Fair Housing Act
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Section 109 of Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
- Architectural Barriers Act of 1968
- Age Discrimination Act of 1975
- Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972
There is no federal statute addressing employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Protections at the national level are limited. Some regulations protect government employees but do not extend their protections to the private sector. Twenty-four states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and over 140 cities and counties have enacted bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or sexual identity. Employment discrimination refers to discriminatory employment practices such as bias in hiring, promotion, job assignment, termination, and compensation, and various types of harassment. In the United States there is "very little statutory, common law, and case law establishing employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation as a legal wrong."
Presidents have established certain protections for some employees of the federal government by executive order. In 1995, President Bill Clinton's Executive Order 12968 establishing criteria for the issuance of security clearances included sexual orientation for the first time in its non-discrimination language: "The United States Government does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in granting access to classified information." It also said that "no inference" about suitability for access to classified information "may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the employee." Clinton's Executive Order 13087 in 1998 prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in the competitive service of the federal civilian workforce. It applied to the large majority of federal employees, but not to the excepted services such as the military.
At the start of 2010, the Obama administration included gender identity among the classes protected against discrimination under the authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 2012, the EEOC ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not allow gender identity-based employment discrimination because it is a form of sexual discrimination.
On July 21, 2014, President Obama signed Executive Order 13672, adding "gender identity" to the categories protected against discrimination in hiring in the federal civilian workforce, and both "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" to the categories protected against discrimination in hiring and employment on the part of federal government contractors and sub-contractors. Obama's related Executive Order 13673[a] required federal contractors to prove their compliance with labor laws, but Trump revoked this requirement on March 27, 2017.
Hate crime lawsEdit
Hate crime laws (also known as bias crimes laws) protect against crimes motivated by feelings of enmity against a protected class. Until 2009, a 1969 federal law defined hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity. In October 2009, Congress passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation, gender-identity, and disability. It removed the requirement that the victim of a hate crime be engaged in a federally protected activity. President Obama signed the legislation on October 28, 2009.
Two statutes, the Hate Crime Statistics Act (1990) and the Campus Hate Crimes Right to Know Act (1997), require the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as college/university campus security authorities, to collect and publish hate crime statistics.
Forty-six states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have statutes criminalizing various types of bias-motivated violence or intimidation (the exceptions are Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina, and Wyoming). Each of these statutes covers bias on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity; 32 cover disability; 32 of them cover sexual orientation; 28 cover gender; 13 cover age; 21 cover gender identity; 5 cover political affiliation. 31 states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action, in addition to the criminal penalty, for similar acts. 27 states and the District of Columbia have statutes requiring the state to collect hate crime statistics; 16 of these cover sexual orientation.
In Wisconsin v. Mitchell (1993) the Supreme Court unanimously held that state penalty-enhancement laws for hate crimes were constitutional and did not violate First Amendment rights to freedom of thought and expression.
More than 8,400 detained migrants—over a five-year period spanning both the Obama and Trump administrations—were placed in solitary confinement, which remains an ongoing practice as of May 2019. In half of the cases, detainees were being punished, but in the other half, the confinement was due to the person’s mental illness, physical disability, or sexual orientation. Journalists identified six suicides among this population.
In the United States, four states permit conjugal visits to prisoners: California, Connecticut, New York, and Washington; all of these U.S. states have legalized same-sex marriage in June 2015. In June 2007, California, following the enactment in 2005 of a state law requiring state agencies to provide the same rights to domestic partners as to married couples, became the first U.S. state to allow same-sex conjugal visits. The new rules allowed for visits only by registered same-sex married couples or domestic partners, provided that the same-sex marriage or domestic partnership was established before the prisoner was incarcerated. In New York, prior to the vote on same-sex visits, this state allowed 27 out of its 60 facilities to allow same-sex conjugal visits, but this law was not enforced state wide until April 2011. In 2014, both New Mexico and Mississippi banned conjugal visits.
Prior to 1993, lesbian and gay people were not permitted to serve in the U.S. military. Under the "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) policy enacted that year, they were permitted to do so only if they did not disclose their sexual orientation. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 permitted homosexual men and women to serve openly in the armed forces following once designated government officials certified that the military was prepared for the repeal. Since September 20, 2011, gays, lesbians, and bisexuals have been able to serve openly.
On July 13, 2015, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said that the current regulations banning transgender individuals from serving were outdated, and announced a six-month study to determine if lifting the ban would have any impact on the military's effectiveness. On June 30, 2016, Carter announced that the ban on transgender troops from openly serving had been lifted. The policy went into effect on October 1, 2016, and training on transgender issues was scheduled to begin a month later.
The military was originally scheduled to complete its adjustment to openly transgender troops by July 2017. That month, however, President Trump declared in a tweet that transgender people would be prohibited from serving in the military. The next day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said, "There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President's direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect." Trump later published a memo on August 25, 2017 directing that an implementation plan be submitted to him by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security by February 2018. In November 2018, the Trump administration formally asked the Supreme Court to issue a ruling on the matter, even though lower courts were still hearing appeals. Though the Supreme Court initially refused this request, on January 22, 2019, it granted temporary permission to the Trump administration to proceed with its ban, and on March 12 the Department of Defense released a memorandum describing the terms of the ban to take effect on April 12, 2019. The memorandum offers some protection for existing military personnel who were already diagnosed with "gender dysphoria" or who were already serving in their self-designated gender before the memorandum was issued. However, new personnel must serve in their birth gender/sex and are disqualified from service if they have a recent history of gender dysphoria or if they have ever received hormones and surgery related to gender transition. Two bipartisan bills in Congress are pushing back against the ban.
Blood and tissue donationEdit
In the U.S., the current guidance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to defer from donating blood for 12 months from the most recent contact a man who has had sex with another man during the past 12 months. Furthermore, the FDA recommends to blood establishments that in the context of the donor history questionnaire, male or female gender should be self-identified and self-reported for the purpose of blood donation.
Recognition of marriage and adoption for same-sex familiesEdit
The movement to obtain civil marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples in the United States began in the 1970s but remained unsuccessful for over forty years. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the Supreme Judicial Court's decision six months earlier. Before nationwide legalization, same-sex marriage became legal in 36 states; 24 states by court order, nine by legislative action, and three by referendum. Some states had legalized same-sex marriage by more than one of the three actions.
On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states must license and recognize same-sex marriages. Consequently, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Officials in American Samoa discussed whether the ruling applies to the territory; currently same-sex marriages are neither licensed nor recognized there. Since Obergefell v. Hodges passed, Senator Greg Albritton has been proposing bills that act as a work around for same-sex marriages and ten out of sixty-eight judges have stopped issuing marriage licenses in Alabama. On April 10, 2019, the Alabama Senate passed a bill to end all marriage licenses. Senator Albritton mimicked the bill that was voted down in Oklahoma in 2015. The bill would allow people to marry by eliminating the ceremonial portion and requiring the couple to submit an affidavit or form to a probate judge, who would then record the marriage rather than issuing a marriage license which in the judges' eyes is granting permission when they do not approve of the relationship they would be granting permission to.
- Legislative history of same-sex marriage
Fourteen state and the District of Columbia legislators have passed same-sex marriage bills in their states, of which four were vetoed by the governors with Vermont overriding its governor's veto. In total ten states legalized same-sex marriage through legislation without judicial order.
- Legislative history of civil unions and domestic partnerships
Prior to nationwide same-sex marriage, fifteen U.S. states had civil unions or domestic partnerships. Many of those state retain those laws as a continued choice for same-sex couples, and opposite couples in certain states.
Initiative and referendum historyEdit
Thirty-three states had initiatives to vote on same sex marriage and all but one passed a ban on same-sex marriage and/or civil union laws. In the 2012 November elections, Maine, Maryland, and Washington all had referendums to vote on same sex marriage. In this same election, Minnesota had an initiative to add a constitutional ban on same sex marriage. Following the results of this election, Maryland, Maine, and Washington became the first states to allow same-sex marriage through popular vote. while in turn Minnesota voters rejected the proposed ban.
Various other states had initiatives on banning LGBT individuals from certain positions or allowing certain anti-discrimination laws.
- Defense of Marriage Act
The events of the Hawaii Supreme Court prompted the United States Congress to enact the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in 1996, which forbade the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages and relieved states of the requirement that they recognize same-sex unions performed in other jurisdictions.
On June 26, 2013, Section 3 of DOMA ("Definition of marriage") was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor.
- Former State constitutional amendments
There was a backlash after Massachusetts legalized same sex marriage during the 2004 election cycle where fourteen states amended their constitution to ban recognition of same-sex marriages and many banning civil unions as well.
All twenty-eight states who passed state constitutional amendments that banned same-sex marriage to be legalized by judicial or legislative action: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Hawaii voters approved a narrower constitutional amendment empowering the legislature to outlaw same-sex marriage, which they had already done in 1993.
All state constitutional bans have been declared unconstitutional in June 2015 in Obergefell v. Hodges.
- State statutes
After the passage of the DOMA in 1996, many state legislators enacted state statutes, nicknamed mini-DOMA's, that ban same sex marriage. Beginning in 1972 with Maryland, all states but New Mexico passed a statute banning same-sex marriage prior to nationwide legalization in Obergefell v. Hodges in June 2015.
Naturalized U.S. citizens whose biological children are born abroad may be unable to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children even if their spouse is also a U.S. citizen. This may disproportionately affect same-sex couples, given that typically only one spouse is biologically related to the child.
State adoption lawsEdit
Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt in states and territories following the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. Prior to Obergefell, various states by legislative and judicial action had allowed joint adoption by same-sex couples.
A May 2018 Gallup poll found that 67% of Americans supported same-sex marriage. A March 2014 public opinion poll by Washington Post/ABC News showed support for same-sex marriage at 59% among Americans, and a February 2014 New York Times/CBS News opinion poll showed 56% support for same-sex marriage. A November 2012 Gallup poll indicated 61% support for gays and lesbians being allowed to adopt children.
The main supporters of LGBT rights in the U.S. have generally been political liberals and libertarians. Regionally, support for the LGBT rights movement has been strongest in the areas of the North and the West coast, and in other states with large urban populations. The national Democratic Party has held the official platform support most initiatives since 2012 for LGBT rights. However, there are some Republican groups advocating for LGBT issues inside the party include the Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud, Young Conservatives for the Freedom To Marry, and College Republicans of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. A poll in March 2014 found that 40% of Republicans support same-sex marriage, a percentage that rose to 44% in 2018. In 2013, 52% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents between the age of 18–49 years old supported same-sex marriage in a joint Washington Post-ABC News poll. A 2014 Pew Forum Poll showed that American Muslims are more likely than Evangelicals to support same-sex marriage 42% to 28%, a percentage that according to the Public Religion Research Institute in 2018 rose to 51% and 34%. According to Pew Research Center in 2017, Millennials and Generation X, younger white evangelicals born after 1964, have grown more supportive in favor same-sex marriage, up to 47%. A 2017 Pew Research Center poll showed that 64% of White Americans, 60% of Hispanic and Latino Americans and 51% of African Americans support the right for same-sex couples to marry.
The main opponents of LGBT rights in the U.S. have generally been religious fundamentalists. According to Pew Research Center, the majority, 59%, of white evangelical Protestants oppose same-sex marriage. Between 2016 and 2017, views among Baby boomers and the Silent Generation, older white evangelicals born before 1964, have shown practically no change from 25% then to 26% now. Conservatives cite various Bible passages from the Old and New Testaments as their justification for opposing LGBT rights. Regionally, LGBT rights opposition has been strongest in the South and in other states with a large rural and conservative population, particularly the Bible Belt.
As the movement for same-sex marriage has developed, many national and/or international organizations have opposed that movement. Those organizations include the American Family Association, the Christian Coalition, Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Save Our Children, NARTH, the national Republican Party, the Roman Catholic Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), the Southern Baptist Convention, Alliance for Marriage, Alliance Defense Fund, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage. A number of these groups have been named as anti-gay hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Transgender rights in the United StatesEdit
If a person identifies as transgender, this typically means their gender differs from their sex assigned at birth. Some transgender people have binary gender identities (male or female) and some transgender people have non-binary gender identities, (genderqueer, agender, pangender, culturally-specific third gender identities, and more).
Discrimination rates are very high for the transgender community and especially for transgender people of color. Some frequent examples of discrimination and other forms of oppression faced by the transgender community are violence and hate crimes, homelessness, poverty, sexual assault, housing discrimination, employment discrimination, harassment, bullying, disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration, prison and immigration violence and mistreatment, airport security humiliation, HIV/AIDS and health disparities, governmental/bureaucratic barriers to transitioning (documents and surgery requirements), economic and societal barriers to transitioning (the high costs of medical care and the frequent denial of care), to name only a few. Some (but not all), who experience exclusion from the workforce, turn to survival crimes, such as sex work, in order to have an income as a direct result of economic oppression and discrimination. With the passage of the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) bills, these individuals who turn to sex work are put in more danger because they are forced to turn back to more dangerous methods of finding work, such as through pimps and working on the streets, than online forums where they were able to vet clients.
Frequently, the media, and politicians (and as a result, society) sensationalize transgender identities and oppression is reinforced. Aware of this trend, in 2016, a coalition of over 250 anti-sexual assault and domestic violence organizations have released a joint letter decrying the trend of portraying transgender people in restrooms as sexual predators as untrue and harmful. Likewise, GLAAD has released a media guide for reporters covering restroom usage in relation to the transgender community.
Many transgender advocates also advocate for converting single-occupant, gender-segregated restrooms into single-occupant, all-gender restrooms by simply changing the signs due to the high rates of harassment and even violence faced by the transgender community when accessing gender-segregated restrooms according to their gender expression. All-Gender/Gender-Neutral restrooms are also beneficial to nursing mothers, parents with different-sex children, and people with disabilities. Transgender advocates affirm all-gender restrooms as well as access to gendered restrooms as a matter of choice, safety, privacy, and dignity.
Intersex rights in the United StatesEdit
Intersex people in the United States have some of the same rights as other people, but with significant gaps, particularly in protection from non-consensual cosmetic medical interventions, from violence, and from discrimination. Many non-consensual medical surgeries are being performed in order to "fix" these individuals when they are born or young. Some are also put on hormones in order to ensure that their bodies develop to the sex they were assigned. In August 2018, the California state legislature passed a law that condemns these types of surgeries. This law gives intersex minors rights to be involved in decisions being made about surgeries performed on their bodies and therefore the surgeries are put off until the individual is old enough to understand and participate in the decision-making process. Actions by intersex civil society organizations aim to eliminate harmful practices, promote social acceptance, and equality. In recent years, intersex activists have also secured some forms of legal recognition.
United States Supreme Court decisionsEdit
In March 1956, a Federal District Court ruled that ONE: The Homosexual Magazine, was obscene under the Federal Comstock laws and thus could not be sent through the United States Postal Service. This ruling was upheld by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but in 1958, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in One, Inc. v. Olesen, 355 U.S. 371 (1958), which overturned the previous rulings under a new legal precedent that had been established by the landmark case, Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957). As a result, gay newspapers, magazines and other publications could be lawfully distributed through the public mail service. On May 22, 1967, the Supreme Court upheld the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which among other things banned homosexuals, as constitutional. This ban remained in effect until 1991.
In 1972, a Tacoma, Washington teacher of twelve years with a perfect record was terminated after a former student outed him to the vice-principal. The Washington Supreme Court found that homosexuality was immoral and impaired his efficiency as a teacher. The court supported its conclusion in various ways, including the definition of homosexuality in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the criminal nature of homosexual conduct, and finding that an "immoral" person could not be trusted to instruct students as his presence would be inherently disruptive. On October 3, 1977, the Supreme Court denied certiorari, although Justices Brennan and Marshall would have granted cert. This was the first homosexual discrimination decision to be aired on national network news. In fact, it was simultaneously aired on all three national network evening news shows, reaching approximately 60 million viewers.
In 1985, the Supreme Court heard Board of Education v. National Gay Task Force, which concerned First and Fourteenth Amendment challenges against a law that allowed schools to fire teachers for public homosexual conduct. The Court affirmed the lower court by an equally divided vote 4–4 allowing the Tenth Circuit's ruling that partially struck down the law to stand without setting precedent.
Also in 1985, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of Gay Student Services v. Texas A&M University, letting stand an appellate ruling ordering the university to provide official recognition of a student organization for homosexual students.
On June 30, 1986, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick, that same-sex intimate conduct was not protected under the right to privacy established under the Fourteenth Amendment.
On May 20, 1996, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Romer v. Evans against an amendment to the Colorado state constitution that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect homosexual or bisexual citizens from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.
On March 4, 1998, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services that federal laws banning on-the-job sexual harassment also applied when both parties are the same sex. The lower courts, however, have reached differing conclusions about whether this ruling applies to harassment motivated by anti-gay animus.
On June 28, 2000, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale that the Boy Scouts of America had a First Amendment right to exclude people from its organization on the basis of sexual orientation, irrespective of any applicable civil rights laws.
Lawrence v. Texas and laws regarding same-sex sexual activityEdit
On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that intimate consensual sexual conduct is part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, explicitly overruled Bowers v. Hardwick. Despite this ruling, some states have not repealed their sodomy laws and local law enforcement officers have used these statutes to harass or arrest gay people.
Prior to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, same-sex sexual activity was illegal in fourteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. military.
By that time, twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and five territories had repealed their state's sodomy laws by legislative action. After the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell," the U.S. Congress repealed sodomy laws in the U.S. military. Twelve states have had state Supreme Court or state Appeals courts rule that their state's sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Virginia have all had their state sodomy laws struck down by the courts, but the legislatures have not repealed those laws. On April 18, 2013, the governor of Montana signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law; it had previously been nullified by the Montana Supreme Court.
Rulings supporting marriage for same-sex couplesEdit
Ten years after the Lawrence decision, the Supreme Court ruled on June 26, 2013 by a 5–4 vote in United States v. Windsor that section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, that forbade the federal government from recognizing lawfully performed same-sex marriages, was found to violate the Fifth Amendment. The federal government then began to recognize lawfully performed same-sex marriages, and provide federal rights, privileges and benefits.
On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited by a state. Consequently, same-sex marriages are licensed and recognized as valid and enforced in all states and areas subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. political partiesEdit
The Democratic Party started to support some LGBT rights in the 1990s. Despite signing the Defense of Marriage Act, Bill Clinton was the first president who openly supported LGBT rights; he appointed several openly gay government officials during his administration. In the 2012 national platform, the Democratic Party supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and "equal responsibility, benefits, and protections" for same-sex couples; President Barack Obama came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2012. The Democratic Party explicitly supports same-sex marriage.
In the Democratic Party's 2016 national platform, the Democratic Party adopted its most progressive agenda in supporting LGBT rights. According to that agenda, "Democrats believe that LGBT rights are human rights and that American foreign policy should advance the ability of all persons to live with dignity, security, and respect, regardless of who they are or who they love."
The agenda is supportive of:
- Obergefell v. Hodges
- Passing the Equality Act, the comprehensive federal nondiscrimination legislation for LGBT Americans in housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding
- Including LGBT people under sex discrimination laws
- Combating youth homelessness
- Policies to improve school climates for LGBT students
- LGBT elders
- Access to Transgender health care
- Ending violence against LGBT people including the crisis of anti-transgender violence
- Mental health
- "Insuring fair treatment for LGBT veterans, including by proactively reviewing and upgrading discharge records for veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation."
The agenda opposes:
- Anti-LGBT state laws including anti-transgender legislation
In the section on HIV/AIDS:
Democrats believe an AIDS-free generation is within our grasp. But today far too many Americans living with HIV are without access to quality care and too many new infections occur each year. That is why we will implement the National HIV and AIDS Strategy; increase research funding for the National Institutes of Health; cap pharmaceutical expenses for people living with HIV and AIDS; reform HIV criminalization laws; and expand access for harm reduction programs and HIV prevention medications, particularly for the populations most at risk of infection. Abroad, we will continue our commitment to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and increase global funding for HIV and AIDS prevention and treatment. Democrats will always protect those living with HIV and AIDS from stigma and discrimination."
The Republican Party opposes multiple rights for LGBT people, primarily focusing on same-sex marriage and transgender rights. Among those members of the public who identify, or lean toward identifying, as Republican, more than half say that society should accept homosexuality (54%, in a Pew Research survey published in October 2017) and nearly half say that same-sex marriage should be legal (44%, in a Pew Research survey published in May 2019).
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump used the acronym "LGBT" at the 2016 Republican National Convention while acknowledging the recent shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Trump, as president, signed a memo in August 2017 prohibiting transgender individuals from joining the armed services in most cases.
The Republican Party's 2016 platform opposes:
- Obergefell v. Hodges (the U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized same-sex marriage)
- Banning conversion therapy on minors
- Transgender rights
- Covering LGBT people under anti-discrimination policies.
The Libertarian Party has endorsed libertarian perspectives on LGBT rights by supporting "religious freedom" and promoting marriage equality since it was created in 1971. The Libertarian Party also wished to lift the bans on same-sex marriage, but with the ultimate goal of marriage privatization.
The more informal coalition of State Green Parties that existed in America from 1983 to 2000 also backed LGBT rights.
The Constitution Party (United States) is strongly opposed to LGBT freedoms, and supports criminal laws against homosexuality and cross-dressing.
The party is very conservative and has ties to Christian Reconstructionism, a far-right, political movement within conservative Christian churches.
Other political partiesEdit
While many American socialist and communist political parties initially preferred to ignore the issue, most now support gay rights causes. Socialist groups generally integrate a stronger approach to gender identity issues than mainstream parties. The Socialist Party U.S.A nominated an openly gay man, David McReynolds, as its (and America's) first openly gay presidential candidate in 1980.
According to the 2014 Pew Research estimate, a plurality of the LGBT+ population is affiliated with Christianity (48%), followed by the non-affiliated (41%) and non-Christian faiths (11%).
|Religion||Percentage of LGBT+ population affiliated|
|Other Non-Christian faiths||5%|
Summary table of LGBT rights in the United StatesEdit
This is simplified for international comparison with other Wikipedia LGBT rights articles. A denotes that the right exists, while a denotes it doesn't; a and in the same column means the right varies on a state-by-state basis.
|LGBT Right||Federal Protection||State Level Protection|
Same-sex sexual activity legal
Equal age of consent
Anti-discrimination laws in employment
|( for federal employees)||/  (see above)|
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas
LGBT anti-discrimination law in health insurance
LGBT anti-bullying law in schools and colleges
LGBT anti-discrimination law in schools and colleges
LGBT anti-discrimination law in hospitals
Surrogacy legal for gay/bi male couples
Recognition of same-sex couples
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples
Joint adoption by same-sex couples
LGBT people allowed to serve openly in the military
Right to change legal gender
|/ (see map)|
Legal recognition of gender diversity beyond the female/male binary
|/ (see link)|
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures
Conversion therapy banned on minors
|/ (see map)|
MSMs allowed to donate blood
| (see above)|
State-by-state summary table of LGBT rights in the United StatesEdit
|State or Territory||Sexual Orientation Employment Discrimination Protections||Gender Identity Employment Discrimination Protections|
|Alabama||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Alaska||Protections only in public employment||No state-level protections|
|Arizona||Protections only in public employment||No state-level protections|
|Arkansas||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|California||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Florida||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Georgia||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Illinois||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Michigan||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|New Jersey||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|New York||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Ohio||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Pennsylvania||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Texas||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|North Carolina||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Massachusetts||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Indiana||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Virginia||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Missouri||Protections only in public employment||No state-level protections|
|Washington||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Maryland||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Oregon||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Kentucky||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Tennessee||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Colorado||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Wisconsin||Protections for all employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Minnesota||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Louisiana||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|South Carolina||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Oklahoma||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Nevada||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Kansas||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|Connecticut||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Iowa||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Mississippi||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Utah||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Hawaii||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Maine||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|District of Columbia||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|New Mexico||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|West Virginia||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Nebraska||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|New Hampshire||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Rhode Island||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Idaho||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|South Dakota||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Delaware||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Vermont||Protections for all employment||Protections for all employment|
|Montana||Protections only in public employment||Protections only in public employment|
|North Dakota||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
|Wyoming||No state-level protections||No state-level protections|
In the 1960s, most Americans viewed LGBTQ people as abnormal. Members of the community attended gay bars and clubs to freely express themselves away from public judgement. New York Liquor authority closed bars and clubs that served alcohol that suspected LGBTQ members. On June 28, 1969, the police raided a gay club called Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village New York, starting a riot. There was a weeklong protest in the neighborhoods and bars. In effect, this led to some of the worldwide movements for the LGBTQ community.
In the early 1970s, before umbrella acronyms like "LGBTQ," lesbian activists created separatist groups. These groups were distinct from gay men's communities and from the broader feminist movement. They built institutions including self-defense schools and residential communities. In the late 1970s, the movement dwindled due to the economic recession, and many lesbians wished to integrate with the broader gay movement.
In the 1980s, a new disease was noticed among gay men in the United States. It was discovered to be transferred through infected blood and sexual contact. The Centers for Disease Control attributed its spread to homosexuality and drug use. By 1985, the disease had reportedly caused 12,529 deaths in the United States. Some doctors, including Joseph Sonnabend, faced the loss of their medical license and practices because of their work on HIV/AIDS. Gay and lesbian organizations and communities raised money and advocated for better policy.
Gay Straight AllianceEdit
Organizations such as the Gay Straight Alliance have been around since the 1980s. They provide resources to schools and universities that bring awareness and provide resources toward helping individuals. Research has shown that LGBTQ adolescents have reported to be safer and more included when they are involved in a GSA.
United States topicsEdit
- No promo homo laws
- LGBT in the United States
- Federal Marriage Amendment
- Employment Non-Discrimination Act
- Equality Act (United States)
- Human rights in the United States
- LGBT retirement issues in the United States
- Proposed bans of LGBT-themed books in the United States
Global LGBT topicsEdit
LGBT history topicsEdit
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- Karen McVeigh and Paul Harris. "US military lifts ban on openly gay troops | World news". The Guardian. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "LGBTQ+ Donors". American Red Cross.
- "Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products" (PDF). Fda.gov. Retrieved October 17, 2017.
- "Ohio Governor Bans Gender-Identity Discrimination in State Employment". Governing.com. December 21, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
- Bullough, Vern, "When Did the Gay Rights Movement Begin?", April 18, 2005. Retrieved December 30, 2005.
- Bullough, Vern L. (ed.) Before Stonewall: Activists for Gay and Lesbian Rights in Historical Context. Harrington Park Press, 2002.
- Gallagher, John & Chris Bull, Perfect Enemies: The Religious Right, the Gay Movement, and the Politics of the 1990s, 1996, Crown, 300 pp. Retrieved December 30, 2005.
- Matzner, Andrew, "Stonewall Riots", glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, & Queer Culture, Claude J. Summers, ed. 2004. Retrieved December 30, 2005.
- Percy, William A. & William Edward Glover, "Before Stonewall by Glover & Percy", November 5, 2005. Retrieved December 30, 2005.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT rights in the United States.|
- WhiteHouse.gov: Civil Rights – includes section on LGBT rights
- A Look at the State of the Gay Rights Movement – video report by Democracy Now!
- Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity
- Human Rights Campaign – official website
- Refuge Restrooms – A user-compiled, edited, and evaluatable All-Gender Restroom locator (with disability access feature)
- Gallup News May 18. 2017 online - Gallup Poll. "Americans Split Over New LGBT Protections, Restroom Policies"
- Burack, Cynthia/ “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Human Rights Assistance in the Time of Trump,” Politics and Gender 14:4 (2018): 561-580.
- Carlson-Rainer, Elise. “Will Sexual Minority Rights Be Trumped? Assessing the Policy Sustainability of LGBTI Rights Diplomacy in American Foreign Policy.” Diplomacy and Statecraft 30:1 (March 2019): 147-163. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09592296.2019.1557422 review of article
- Dietrich, John W. "The U.S. Human Rights Policy in the Post-Cold War Era." Political Science Quarterly 121, no. 2 (2006): 269–94.
- Lax, Jeffrey R., and Justin H. Phillips. "Gay Rights in the States: Public Opinion and Policy Responsiveness." The American Political Science Review 103, no. 3 (2009): 367–86.
- Robinson, John M. "The LGBT Movement Springs from the Stonewall Riots." State Magazine June 2011: 9. (retrieved October 12, 2016).
- Robinson, John M. "Moving Forward in the Fight for LGBT Equality." State Magazine June 2013: 8. (retrieved October 12, 2016).
- Tilcsik, András. "Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay Men in the United States." American Journal of Sociology 117, no. 2 (2011): 586–626.