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Facts on Nondiscrimination Laws

It may be hard to believe, but by the numbers:

28 states allow discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals in employment, housing and public accommodations.

1 state bans discrimination in employment and housing, but allows discrimination in public accommodations.

3 additional states allow discrimination against transgender individuals in employment, housing and public accommodations.

1 more state allows discrimination against transgender individuals in public accommodations.

Only 19 states plus the District of Columbia have nondiscrimination laws protecting all of their citizens.

More than half (51%) of LGBT Americans live in states where they can be fired from a job, denied housing, or refused service at businesses or governmental entities.

Isn’t there a federal law protecting LGBT individuals at the national level?

No. Although the Senate voted to pass ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, on November 7, 2013, the House of Representatives has been unable to bring it to a vote.

President Clinton did sign an executive order in 1998 which protected only employees of the federal government, and only on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2014, President Obama expanded protections, signing an executive order protecting employees of the federal government and federal contractors on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.

While a large number of people are either employees of the federal government or federal contractors, a far greater number of people are not. Furthermore, these protections do not extend to housing or public accommodations.

This is why we are pushing for inclusive, comprehensive nondiscrimination protections at the state and local level.

What is an inclusive nondiscrimination law?

An inclusive nondiscrimination law is one that protects individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. In other words, it covers both sexual orientation and gender identity & expression.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have inclusive nondiscrimination laws. Please explore the map on this site to see which states have fully inclusive protections.

One state–Utah–bans discrimination in employment and housing, but allows discrimination in public accommodations.

Three states–New Hampshire, New York and Wisconsin–have nondiscrimination laws covering sexual orientation but allow discrimination based on gender identity. In those states, transgender individuals can be fired from a job, denied housing, or refused services.

One state–Massachusetts–has a partially inclusive nondiscrimination law. In that state, transgender individuals are protected in employment and housing but are not covered with regard to public accommodations.

What is a comprehensive nondiscrimination law?

A nondiscrimination law is comprehensive if it protects LGBT individuals in three areas: employment, housing and public accommodations.

Public accommodations are governmental entities and private businesses that provide services to the public. These include stores, restaurants, theaters and libraries. They do not include private membership clubs.

What are some challenges to nondiscrimination laws?

Three common challenges to nondiscrimination laws include:

Religious exemptions. These exemptions vary, but they allow religious organizations and/or private businesses to discriminate based on religious views towards LGBT individuals.

Business exemptions. These exempt employers with less than a certain number of employees. For example, a business with under 15 employees would be allowed to discriminate against LGBT individuals.

Gender identity exemptions in public accommodations. These allow discrimination against people who are transgender in various types of public accommodations, most commonly in public restrooms and locker rooms.

What about local protections?

In the 33 states that lack inclusive and comprehensive laws, many municipalities–cities and counties–have passed nondiscrimination ordinances. Approximately 150 cities and counties have such protections.

Here are the percentage of people protected by local ordinances in those 33 states:

State Population protected for sexual orientation Population protected for gender identity
Arizona 35% 35%
Arkansas 3% 3%
Florida 53% 50%
Georgia 4% 4%
Idaho 28% 28%
Indiana 28% 21%
Kansas 3% 3%
Kentucky 26% 26%
Louisiana 12% 12%
Massachusetts 100% 100% for employment and housing. 0% for public accommodations.
Michigan 20% 20%
Missouri 38% 38%
Montana 17% 17%
Nebraska 22% 22%
New Hampshire 100% 0%
New York 100% 59%
Ohio 21% 20%
Pennsylvania 32% 32%
South Carolina 1% 1%
Texas 25% 25%
Utah 54% 54%
Virginia 3% 0%
West Virginia 7% 7%
Wisconsin 100% 22%

 

The following states currently offer no protections at the state or local level, though most of them are working to pass local ordinances and/or statewide laws:

Alabama
Alaska
Mississippi
North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
South Dakota
Tennessee
Wyoming

For a listing of cities and counties with local ordinances, please visit the Movement Advancement Project’s website to view their Equality Maps.