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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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LGBT POLICY SPOTLIGHT: LGBT EQUALITY IN THE U.S. TERRITORIES

The Bottom Line

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.

MAP classifies various laws and policies that impact LGBT people into two broad categories: sexual orientation-related laws and policies, and gender identity-related laws and policies. Examined together, these polices are combined to calculate an “Overall Policy Tally.”

  • Puerto Rico has the highest overall LGBT policy tally of the five territories (21.75 out of a potential 40.5) as well as the highest sexual orientation policy tally (11.5/20) and gender identity policy tally (10.25/20.5). Based on its LGBT-related laws and policies, Puerto Rico has a similar overall LGBT policy tally as Maine and Delaware.
  • Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands all have a “low” LGBT policy tally. American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands have the same overall policy tally as Alaska (0.5/40.5), while the U.S. Virgin Islands (5.5/40.5) falls between Arizona and Kentucky. Guam (7/40.5) falls between Kentucky and Indiana.
  • Guam has a “medium” sexual orientation policy tally identical to that of Pennsylvania and Michigan, while the other three territories have “low” sexual orientation policy tallies. Notably, both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have “negative” gender identity policy tallies similar to Arizona and Wyoming, respectively. American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands have “low” gender identity policy tallies.
In addition, the report looks at seven broad categories including relationship and parental recognition, non-discrimination laws, LGBT youth laws and policies, healthcare laws and policies, criminal justice laws, and accurate identity documents.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project. June 2019. LGBT Policy Spotlight: LGBT Equality in the U.S. Territories. http://www.lgbtmap.org/policy-and-issue-analysis/policy-spotlight-us-territories (date of access).

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