understanding issues reportPost submitted by Stephen Peters, former Senior National Press Secretary and Spokesperson

Despite growing support for equality, the stakes are high for the estimated almost nine million lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Americans whose daily lives are limited by a lack of state and federal protections. According to a new publication released today, LGBT Americans live in a two-tier system where they must navigate vastly differing state laws coupled with an ongoing lack of protections under federal law. For example, same-sex couples can now marry in 35 states, but a lack of widespread nondiscrimination protections means wearing a wedding ring to work can result in a gay worker being legally fired in 29 states. In most states, LGBT people can also still be refused service and denied housing, and there are no laws protecting LGBT students against bullying in schools.

Understanding Issues Facing LGBT Americans is a primer introducing the major areas in which LGBT Americans face legal barriers to fully participating in life and provides a summary of what advocates are doing to work for change. The resource was developed by the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), the Center for American Progress (CAP), GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). 

“LGBT people are included in the federal hate crimes law; but fewer than half of states have passing or expanding laws which aim to protect LGBT individuals from bullying in schools or discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations like restaurants and stores,” said MAP Executive Director Ineke Mushovic. “The reality is that LGBT Americans are still not equal under the law, and are at extreme risk in low-equality states. Their economic security is at risk, their jobs are at risk, and even their physical safety is at risk.”

Many LGBT people experience discrimination when simply going about their daily activities–whether eating at a diner with their families or friends, trying to obtain safe, affordable housing or applying for a loan.

“Instituting basic protections is long overdue,” said Laura E. Durso, Director of CAP’s LGBT Research and Communications Project. “LGBT workers often cannot extend their health insurance coverage to their partners or children. Without family and marriage tax deductions, LGBT families may pay additional taxes while having reduced access to benefits like Social Security survivor benefits. Due to these and myriad other inequalities, LGBT people are more likely to live in poverty and suffer from health disparities. It is time to address these harmful inequities by ensuring equal protection under the law.”

"Despite significant progress toward greater equality for LGBT Americans, too many members of the LGBT community still face discrimination at home, at work, at school and in public places,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “Until every LGBT American has equal opportunity to pursue the American Dream, we must continue to promote social, legal and institutional change.”

“It is vital that we raise awareness about the many ways LGBT people are harmed by a lack of legal protections,” said GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “This guide is a welcome resource to help have important conversations that will open hearts and minds.”

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