Washington – In the last week, the number of states where same-sex couples will soon be able to legally marry has nearly doubled to 30 and the District of Columbia, with several more states waiting for court rulings. All across the country, momentum is continuing to build towards nationwide marriage equality. Yet the countless thousands of Americans who are now free to legally marry the person they love in the state they call home now find themselves in a different predicament: in a majority of states, LGBT Americans lack explicit basic civil rights protections. In states like Oklahoma, loving couples could get married on a Saturday afternoon and return to the office on Monday, only to be at risk of being fired because their employer objects to their sexual orientation.
Thousands of legally married gay and lesbian couples live in states in which there are no consistent legal protections against workplace, housing or public accommodation discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Though President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for federal employees and contractors, these protections don’t apply to other employers. In 29 states, there are no explicit state laws that protect Americans based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In Pennsylvania, newly married same-sex couples are at risk of being fired from their jobs for talking about their new spouses at work for no other reason than of their employer’s discriminatory views about gay people. The same goes for couples living in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia and Indiana, where couples gained the legal right to marry the person they love this week but could still be denied service in a grocery store or restaurant because of who they are.
In fact, of all the new marriage equality states in which couples can marry immediately - Virginia, Colorado, Utah, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Indiana - only Colorado has explicit protections for LGBT people regarding employment, housing, public accommodations or education. Wisconsin has explicit protections based on sexual orientation only.
In addition to advocating for these protections at the state level, HRC is also pursuing federal remedies. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, passed the Senate in November 2013 and has support in the House. HRC will also be supporting a broad federal bill that includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for employment, housing, education, credit, public accommodations, federal funding and jury service.
To see a map of states with marriage equality, click here.
To see a map of states that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, click here.
To see a map of states that prohibit housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, click here.
To see a map of states that prohibit public accommodation discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, click here.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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