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LGBTQ Rights and Gender Identity Discrimination

The U.S. and many state governments offer protections against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. Following a landmark Supreme Court decision in June 2020, sexual orientation and gender identity now fall under the status of "sex" and offer protection to millions of American workers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

Federal, state, and corporate rules and regulations regarding LGBTQ rights are in a constant state of evolution. Be sure to check back here for updates, or contact a local attorney to get the most up-to-date information.

Employment Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on "sex" includes discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

That means workers cannot be passed over for promotions, terminated, or otherwise face negative treatment based on their sexual orientation, such as being gay, or their gender identity, such as being transgender.

The protection extends to workplace discrimination that:

Beyond the landmark case that offered protection from employment discrimination, as a general rule, federal law doesn't protect individuals from sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in housing, lending, education, or in any other area. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule including:

  • Hate crimes
  • Miscellaneous policies
  • Same-sex marriage

Hate Crimes

Federal law protects GLBTQ individuals against hate crimes motivated by animosity over their sexual orientation. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (The Matthew Shepard Act), signed into law in 2009, gives violent offenders who target gay and lesbian people higher penalties than they would otherwise receive.

Miscellaneous Policies

In addition, the President may issue policies that have a positive effect for LGBTQ citizens. It's generally left to the agencies in the executive branch to execute and enforce these policies. For example, the Obama administration ordered that all hospitals which accept Medicare and Medicaid payments must allow same-sex partners of patients to visit and make medical decisions for their loved ones.

Same-Sex Marriage

Finally, the federal government recognizes same-sex marriages, which means that married gay and lesbian couples enjoy all of the same privileges as their heterosexual counterparts. On June 26, 2015, The U.S. Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause. The landmark decision in Obergfell v. Hodges overturned all state laws that banned same-sex marriage, thereby legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states and U.S. territories except American Samoa.

State Protections

Each state can choose to add protections for its LGBTQ residents. Be sure to check the laws in your state to determine what protections you have. The laws that states pass can affect the following legal areas:

Protections By Private Employers

Employers may grant higher protections to their gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees even when not required to do so by state or federal law. Therefore, if you have experienced harassment or discrimination on the job, the first place to check is your employer's internal discrimination policies. The human resources department should make this information available to you.

Talk to an Attorney about Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity Discrimination

Have you suffered sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination? Depending on your situation, federal law may or may not protect you, but state laws could apply. Civil rights law concerning sexual orientation discrimination can be complex regarding coverage. An experienced civil rights attorney. can help you understand your rights.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified civil rights attorney to help you protect your rights.

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