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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.


Nondiscrimination Laws

Many LGBT people experience discrimination when going about their daily activities–whether eating at a restaurant with their families or friends, trying to obtain safe, clean housing, or applying for a loan. Federal, state, and local nondiscrimination need to be updated to ensure that LGBT people participate fully in society and provide for themselves and their families.

The resources on this page examine the landscape of nondiscrimination laws across the United States.

Related Resources


Separation and Stigma: Transgender Youth & School Facilities

April 2017 - This new report examines the harmful and unnecessary policies that exclude transgender students from accessing appropriate school facilities. Despite the success of inclusive policies across the country, seventeen states have introduced legislation designed to ensure transgender students are relegated to facilities that align with the sex on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity.

Policy Brief

Creating a License to Discriminate: First Amendment Defense Act

March 2017 - To explain why the First Amendment Defense Act is so devastating and should not be re-introduced, this brief provides an analysis of the 2015 version of FADA and what it could mean for 10 million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, along with millions of others. The brief underscores how vigilant we must be to ensure that a license to discriminate is not written into our laws.


Talking About Religious Exemptions & Service Discrimination

March 2017 - Several states have proposed legislation to allow businesses to discriminate against customers who don’t conform to the specific religious beliefs that marriage should be restricted to a man and a woman, and that sex should be restricted to such marriages. Learn how to have effective conversations and broaden people's understanding of these laws and how they encourage discrimination against same-sex couples, unmarried couples and individuals, single parents, and others.


Talking About Religious Exemptions & Adoption Discrimination

March 2017 - Some states have introduced legislation to create broad religious exemptions allowing discrimination in taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care services. Such laws would allow adoption agencies and child services workers to make decisions for children in their care based on their religious beliefs, rather than the best interests of the child. Learn how to talk about these harmful laws which deprive children of loving homes.

Policy Brief

License to Discriminate: South Dakota Senate Bill 149

March 2017 - Senate Bill 149 allows child-placement agencies to make placement and child treatment decisions based on their own religious beliefs, as opposed to following standards that advance the best interests of children. SB 149 would allow child-placement agencies to impose their beliefs on others and to discriminate against children and families, all while providing services paid for with taxpayer money.


Mapping Transgender Equality in the United States

February 2017 - To help make sense of the current policy landscape in the states, this report looks at legal equality for transgender people across the country. The gender identity tally is comprised of 25 state laws and policies in five key categories: Non-Discrimination, LGBT Youth, Health and Safety, Ability to Correct the Name and Gender Marker on Identity Documents, and Adoption and Parenting.


Talking About Transgender Students & School Facilities Access

January 2017 - As part of ongoing efforts to protect transgender people from discrimination, there is growing momentum to ensure that transgender students have a fair chance at educational success. This guide provides high-level messaging to help build support for policies and laws that protect transgender students and their ability to access school facilities that match their gender identity.


Talking About Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People

Updated January 2017 - Learn about conversation approaches that can help build and sustain solid, lasting support for LGBT nondiscrimination laws, and also factually and effectively address concerns that might be raised when discussing the need for such protections. En español: Cómo hablar sobre protecciones antidiscriminatorias para personas LGBT


LGBT Policy Tally Snapshots

August 2016 - Policy Tallies provide an overview of laws and polices that exist in each state. The major categories of laws covered by the policy tally include: Marriage and Relationship Recognition, Adoption and Parenting, Non-Discrimination, Safe Schools, Health and Safety, and the Ability for Transgender People to Correct the Gender Marker on Identity Documents.


Non-Discrimination Laws

August 2016 - Non-discrimination laws protect LGBT people from employment, housing, public accommodations, credit, and other discrimination.


Local Employment Non-Discrimination Ordinances

August 2016 - Local employment non-discrimination ordinances protect people from being unfairly fired, not hired, or discriminated against in the workplace by private employers on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.


State Religious Exemption Laws

August 2016 - State religious exemption laws permit people, churches, non-profit organizations, and sometimes corporations to seek exemptions from state laws that burden their religious beliefs. These laws have recently been used as a defense when businesses discriminate against or refuse service to LGBT customers and same-sex couples.


The Facts: Bathroom Safety, Nondiscrimination Laws, and Bathroom Ban Laws

July 2016 - The Facts: Bathroom Safety, Nondiscrimination Laws, and Bathroom Ban Laws provides a thorough and rational discussion of the legal landscape pertaining to nondiscrimination laws, bathroom ban laws, and restroom safety.


Talking About Religious Exemptions Laws

May 2016 - Read about approaches for effective conversations about harmful religious exemptions that threaten not only laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination, but also access to health care (including women's reproductive health), public safety, and more.


Guía para aliados: cómo hablar sobre protecciones antidiscriminatorias para personas LGBT

Noviembre 2015 - Encontrará enfoques comprobados para ayudar a construir y mantener un apoyo sólido y duradero a favor de leyes antidiscriminatorias para personas LGBT y también aborda de manera objetiva y eficaz las dudas que podrían surgir cuando se habla de la necesidad de tener tales leyes.


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.


An Ally's Guide to Talking About Nondiscrimination Protections for LGBT People

April 2015 - Learn about conversation approaches that can help build and sustain solid, lasting support for LGBT nondiscrimination laws, and also factually and effectively address concerns that might be raised when discussing the need for such protections.


Issue Briefs: Protecting LGBT Workers

June 2014 - New state-focused issue briefs provide overviews of the unfair treatment faced by hardworking LGBT Americans who continue to lack essential protections against discrimination—and as a result, can still be unfairly fired from their jobs simply because of who they are.


A Broken Bargain: Unchecked Discrimination Against LGBT Workers

May 2014 - LGBT Americans continue to face unfair treatment, harassment and discrimination in the workplace, yet no federal law provides them with explicit legal protections. Learn how businesses and policymakers can help level the playing field and protect LGBT workers from employment discrimination.


An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers & Family Leave Laws

November 2013 - Learn how discriminatory laws and unequal access to family and medical leave laws force lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers to choose between managing medical or family crises and holding onto their jobs and their livelihoods.


A Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers of Color

November 2013 - LGBT workers of color face unique challenges, including educational barriers; hiring bias and on-the-job discrimination; unequal pay, benefits, and taxation--and extraordinarily high rates of unemployment and poverty as a result. Learn about actions that can help fix this broken bargain for LGBT workers of color.


A Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers

September 2013 - The basic American bargain--that those who work hard and meet their responsibilities should be able to get ahead--is broken for transgender workers. Learn about the inequities facing transgender workers, and how policymakers and employers can help reduce and eliminate those inequities.


A Broken Bargain: Discrimination, Fewer Benefits and More Taxes for LGBT Workers

June 2013 - LGBT workers might have the same job as a coworker, yet be legally fired, denied equal benefits and be required to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Learn more in the 132-page Full Report, the 36-page Condensed Version, and the five-page Executive Summary.


A Broken Bargain: Infographics

June 2013 - From the pages of A Broken Bargain come a set of infographics, including: 'The Broken Bargain for LGBT Workers,' 'Legal Discrimination Makes It Harder to Find and Keep a Good Job,' 'Transgender Workers Work As Hard, Denied Health Care and Leave,' and more.


Issue Brief: The Need for an Executive Order

April 2013 - U.S. taxpayers send almost $300 billion per year in federal contract dollars to businesses in states that have not yet passed laws to protect LGBT workers from discrimination. An executive order would protect an additional 16 million workers and cover more than 20% of the U.S. workforce.

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