It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ+ fight for equal rights. Since then, there have been major strides when it comes to fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, thanks to the tireless work of activists and communities.
"They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law,” the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide reads. “The Constitution grants them that right." But there’s still a lot of work to be done. For example, it is still legal in more than half of U.S. states to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, housing, public spaces, and many other areas. Yes, you read that right.
Overall, laws offering equal rights and protections to LGBTQ+ people can vary wildly from state to state — or be entirely absent from the books. At the federal level, the administration of President Donald Trump has aggressively rolled back protections on issues ranging from transgender students’ access to the bathroom of their choice to same-sex couples' ability to adopt and foster children.
Ahead, we look at six issues that impact the LGBTQ+ community and what, if any, progress we've made.
Same-Sex Marriage Recognition
Due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 decision Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, D.C., and all five U.S. territories: American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
LGBTQ+ Adoption & Parenting Rights
At the federal level, the Trump administration is expected to propose a set of rules that would make it easier for adoption and foster-care agencies to reject same-sex couples.
At the state level, there are not many protections for same-sex couples. Only D.C. and nine states — California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Michigan, Oregon, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Maryland, and New York — have some sort of protection for same-sex parents when it comes to adoption and fostering.
The rest have no policies in place, although 10 states — Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Virginia — allow for state-licensed child welfare agencies to deny services to same-sex couples and LGBTQ+ people if doing so goes against their religious beliefs.
Discrimination Based On Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
Workplace: Twenty-six states and three U.S. territories have no explicit policy banning workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Housing: Twenty-six states and three territories have no explicit policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity when it comes to housing. At the federal level, the Trump administration wants to allow homeless shelters funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to discriminate based on gender identity.
Public Spaces: Twenty-seven states and all five U.S. territories have no provisions in their laws to protect LGBTQ+ people from being discriminated against or refused service based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
LGBTQ+ Hate Crimes
While sexual orientation and gender identity are covered under hate crimes statutes in federal law, these protections vary from state to state. Currently, hate crime laws in 15 states — Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Virginia, and West Virginia — don’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Three additional states — Arkansas, South Carolina, and Wyoming— don’t have any hate crime laws whatsoever.
Healthcare For LGBTQ+ People
Thirty-six states and four U.S. territories have no laws in place providing protections for the LGBTQ+ community when it comes to private health insurance coverage. And at least 23 states have no policies in place regarding health coverage and care for transgender patients under Medicaid and state employee health benefits. This means 60% of LGBTQ+ Americans live in states that have no insurance protections for the community.
At the federal level, the Trump administration has also rolled back protections for the LGBTQ+ community. For example, it is attempting to revise the nondiscrimination protections found in the Affordable Care Act, i.e. Obamacare, so that it excludes gender identity.
School Safety For LGBTQ+ Youth
LGBTQ+ youth are among some of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S. According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were more likely to be bullied on school property (33%) and cyber-bullied (27.1%) than their peers who identify as heterosexual (17.1% and 13.3%, respectively). In terms of protections, the U.S. is pretty evenly split: 21 states and D.C. currently have laws in place prohibiting bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, while 24 states have no laws in place protecting LGBTQ+ students.