LGBTQ Rights in the U.S.

Legislation specifically designed to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and questioning/queer (LGBTQ) population are relatively new. Historically, the Supreme Court has overwhelmingly chosen to limit the rights of the LGBTQ community. In the 1973 court case Baker V. Nelson, the Supreme Court ruled that there was no guarantee of marriage for same-sex couples in the U.S. constitution.1

In Bowers V. Hardwick (1986), the Supreme Court concluded that “the Constitution does not protect the right of gay adults to engage in consensual sodomy in private.”1 In 2003, the Supreme Court astonishingly chose to defend and side with the LGBTQ community. In Lawrence V. Texas, the federal judges chose to overturn Bowers V. Hardwick, thus insinuating the first steps of legal equality for LGBTQ community.

However, many U.S. states had abolished discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community decades before the Supreme Court ruled them unconstitutional in 2003. For instance, in 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination against sexual orientation.1

Eventually, twenty sates would follow the Wisconsin model and ban discriminatory policies against sexual orientation. Today, LGBTQ rights vary greatly from state to state. Below are seven categories of rights that states have expanded to include the LGBTQ community.

Schools

Nearly every state has adopted laws against the bullying of children within public schools; however, nearly half of them do not define categories of protection. For instance, a child can receive punishment for saying racial slurs, but not for homophobic curses.

Currently, nearly all southeast states have failed to address bullying based on sexual orientation or sexual identity. Here are a list of states that have laws protecting students from discrimination based on sexual identity and sexual orientation:2

·       Arizona

·       North Carolina

·       New York

·       New Jersey

·       New Hampshire

·       District of Colombia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maryland

·       Maine

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island

Hate Crimes

Hate crimes, also known as bias crimes, are crimes that are motivated by prejudice. For example, the death of Jews during World War II would be considered hate crimes. At the federal level, the LGBTQ population is protected under hate crimes.

Unfortunately, a dozen states disclude sexual orientation or sexual identity in their definition of a hate crime. Consequently, when the “state and local law enforcement cannot or will not investigate and prosecute these crimes, the federal government [will have] no authority to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”3

Thus, inclusion of sexual orientation and sexual identity is crucial for the protection of the LGBTQ community. The following states include sexual orientation and sexual identity under their definition of a hate crime:4

·       New Jersey

·       District of Columbia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maryland

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Montana

·       Minnesota

·       Oregon

·       Washington

·       Nevada

·       New Mexico

·       California

·       Hawaii

·       Colorado

Housing

The federal government requires the Department of Housing and Urban Development fund a portion of the housing programs. In exchange for grants, the federal government receives the ability to address discrimination regarding sexual orientation and sexual identity.

Still, less than half of the U.S. states have laws protecting the LGBTQ community from having equal access to housing. These are states with laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity:4

·       New Jersey

·       District of Columbia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maine

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island

·       Minnesota

·       Iowa

·       Illinois

·       Oregon

·       Washington

·       Nevada

·       New Mexico

·       California

·       Hawaii

·       Colorado

Employment

Anti-discrimination laws protect LGBTQ workers from being fired without reasonable cause. However, only eighteen states have these laws. Anyone that lives in any southeast state can be fired for identifying with the LGBTQ community. The following states prohibit discrimination in the public and private workplace due to sexual orientation and sexual identity:4

·       New Jersey

·       District of Colombia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maine

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island

·       Minnesota

·       Iowa

·       Illinois

·       Oregon

·       Washington

·       Nevada

·       New Mexico

·       California

·       Hawaii

·       Colorado

Adoption

Every state has laws permitting single parents to adopt children. Therefore, an unmarried LGBTQ person can legally adopt a child. However, many states prohibit same-sex married couples from adopting children. Although research has shown that children of same-sex parents are just as healthy as children of heterosexual, some states have deemed same-sex parents unfit to raise kids.9 These are states that have expanded adoption rights to same-sex parents:5

·       New York

·       New Jersey

·       New Hampshire

·       District of Columbia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maryland

·       Maine

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island  

·       Minnesota

·       Iowa

·       Indianan

·       Illinois

·       Oregon

·       Washington

·       Nevada

·       California

·       Hawaii

·       Colorado

Hospital Visitation

In 2011, the Federal Government allowed people on Medicare and Medicaid to decide which one of their family members or loved ones has visitation rights. Furthermore, these patients can also decide who can make decisions on their behalf.

For example, if a person is on life support, their chosen designator can make decisions for them. Individuals not on Medicare or Medicaid are subject to state law. Unfortunately, most states do not grant same-sex spouses these rights. Alternatively, these states recognize the importance of these rights:6

·       New York

·       New Jersey

·       New Hampshire

·       District of Columbia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maryland

·       Maine

·       Delaware

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island  

·       Wisconsin

·       Iowa

·       Illinois

·       Oregon

·       Washington

·       Nevada

·       California

·       Hawaii

·       Colorado

Marriage

Same-sex marriage, also known as limited alternative marriage, is becoming legally recognized in more states every year. Marriage allows same-sex couples to receive crucial benefits, such as tax exemptions and hospital visitation rights. Listed below are states that have legally recognized same-sex marriage:6

·       New York

·       New Jersey

·       New Hampshire

·       District of Columbia

·       Massachusetts

·       Maryland

·       Maine

·       Connecticut

·       Vermont

·       Rhode Island  

·       Iowa

·       Illinois

·       Minnesota

·       Washington

·       New Mexico

·       California

·       Hawaii

For more information on marriage, please click here.

References:

1. Staff, NPR. "Timeline: Gay Marriage In Law, Pop Culture And The Courts." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

2. Cage, Feilding, Julian Burgess, Gabriel Dance, and Guardian US Interactive Team. "Gay Rights in the US, State by State." Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 08 May 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.

3. Staff, HRC. "Hate Crimes Law." Human Rights Campaign. Hrc. Org, n.d. Web. 20 Jan. 2014.

4. Cage, Feilding, Julian Burgess, Gabriel Dance, and Guardian US Interactive Team. "Gay Rights in the US, State by State." Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 08 May 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2014

5. Miller, Tracy. "Children of Same-sex Parents Are Healthier, Families Closer than Straight-parent Families: Study." NY Daily News. Nydailynews, 7 June 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

6. Cage, Feilding, Julian Burgess, Gabriel Dance, and Guardian US Interactive Team. "Gay Rights in the US, State by State." Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 08 May 2012. Web. 20 Jan. 2014

Last updated 30 January 2014

 

 

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