LGBTQ rights have come a long way in the U.S. But the community still faces threats in the form of legalization, discrimination and even violence. Just the FAQs, USA TODAY
“They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
Those words concluded the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015 allowing gay marriage in every state, but the USA is far from deciding a cohesive set of laws on other LGBT issues.
Beyond gay marriage, our states’ laws are a patchwork. Some states would prosecute people for denying service to LBGT people while others say someone’s religious convictions are more important.
We looked at six issues on which state laws vary widely on LGBT rights, using the Movement Advancement Project’s database. Four states (Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina and Virginia) are silent or say other concerns take precedence. Six states and Washington, D.C., are polar opposites, leaving the majority of states somewhere in between.
Federal hate crime laws cover both sexual orientation and gender identity, but state laws aren’t so clear cut.
More states than not have laws that offer additional protections for people who are victims of hate crimes because of their sexual orientation.
Only half of those states’ laws extend those protections to transgender people.
Some form of religious exemption law exists in two out of five states. These laws allow people, churches and other nonprofit organizations to circumvent rules because of their religious beliefs.
Public accommodation laws made headlines a few years back when North Carolina passed a law requiring people to use the restroom corresponding with their gender at birth, and the issue remains fraught:
•20 states and D.C. say LGBT people can’t be refused service or entry to businesses.
•One state prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation only.
•Two others say their gender discrimination laws extend to LGBT bias as well.
Many of those same states have passed laws protecting LGBT people from being discriminated against in their workplaces or where they live or would like to live.
Adoption laws show one of the greatest divides – exemplified in a single state: Michigan.
One Michigan law says people can’t be discriminated against during the adoption process based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Four states and D.C. have similar laws.
Another Michigan law allows state-licensed agencies to refuse service to LGBT people based on religious beliefs – unless those agencies contract with the state.
Nine other states have laws allowing groups to refuse to help LGBT people based on religious beliefs.
Revising a birth certificate or driver’s license is a much different experience for transgender people throughout the country.
Seven states will allow residents to change their birth certificates to M, F or X, while 20 others will change the gender on a birth certificates upon request.
On the other end of the spectrum, 15 states require proof of sex reassignment, while three states ban gender changes on birth certificates.
The ideological lines that divided the Supreme Court 5-4 four years ago on gay marriage are largely different from those dividing states.
In his dissenting opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts blasted the other justices for taking activist roles: “Today, five lawyers have ordered every state to change their definition of marriage,” Roberts said. “Just who do we think we are?”
Perhaps LGBT people ask a similar question of all Americans as they look at this checkerboard of laws.
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