For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Oct 02 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

A Guide to LGBT Laws Across the Country

By Madeleine Williamson - Oct 02 2016

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. This made marriage equality law in all 50 states. But few federal laws protect LGBT people on a day-to-day basis. State and local governments are often tasked with ensuring their rights. It’s easy to believe that these groups have complete legal equality post-marriage equality, but the reality is much more complicated.

In many states, LGBT people facing discrimination have no legal recourse. The Human Rights Campaign maps states’ legal protections of the LGBT population. Discrimination is one area in particular where activists are still fighting for legal protections. Though it may be rare, it is still often legal to fire someone for being gay. Housing discrimination is often legal as well. Twenty-eight states don't outlaw these types of discrimination for sexual orientation or gender identity.

Indiana made news when it passed a "religious freedom" law. This protected people opposed to gay marriage from involvement with gay weddings. A baker opposed to gay marriage, for instance, could refuse to cater a gay wedding. But this may be legal in some states regardless of “religious freedom” laws. Discrimination in "public accommodations" like restaurants is legal in over half of the states.

Transgender populations in particular face steep obstacles. North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” made news and sparked controversy earlier this year. The state isn’t unique in its legal inequalities.

When transitioning, many transgender people prefer to change the sex on their official documents. But not all states allow it. Seventeen states don’t allow changes to driver’s licenses or birth certificates - just 14 states and Washington D.C. allow changes to both. The rest only allow trans people to change their sex on one, most commonly their driver’s licenses. Healthcare also presents an area of inequality for the trans population. Only nine states and D.C. require insurance companies to cover transgender-specific healthcare. Only five states and D.C. provide trans healthcare coverage for government employees.

But the LGBT population is making progress. Students are at the forefront of increasing LGBT-friendly laws. Some of the nation’s most LGBT-friendly colleges are in states with few legal protections. Universities in Florida, Texas and even North Carolina made the list, according to a Fresh U report on the most (and least) LGBT-friendly schools. Fresh U also reported on LGBT students’ efforts to create friendlier school and college environments. Institutions and groups like the NCAA have committed to fighting anti-LGBT legislation and attitudes. Check out this StoryMap for our most recent coverage.

Lead Image Credit: Kellie Parker on Flickr Creative Commons

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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