Gay and Lesbian Rights

Sexual orientation discrimination encompasses the unfair treatment or persecution of someone based on their sexual preference. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals are often victims of this type of prejudice.

While women and minorities have seen significant strides made toward equality in the past few decades, the progress hasn’t been as swift for homosexuals. Gays and lesbians continue to endure discrimination in all aspects of life: employment, military, marriage, and membership in various organizations. Perhaps the best illustration of this ongoing prejudice is in the military, where a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy permits the dismissal of any publicly homosexual man or woman from the service.

Although progress has been slower in this area, some states and municipalities have enacted laws against sexual discrimination.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, please consult with a qualified civil rights lawyer. The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only.

Lack of specific Federal law outlawing sexual orientation discrimination

There is no explicit Federal law stating that private employers cannot discriminate against employees based on their sexual orientation, although a clause added on May 28, 1998 prohibits Federal government agencies from performing this type of discrimination.

In states, cities, and counties where a local law has been passed that outlaws sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, private employers are bound to follow that law. Currently, there are 33 states that have no local laws against sexual discrimination, which means there is nothing preventing employers in these states from making biased employment decisions. 

State laws

In the absence of a Federal policy against sexual orientation discrimination, many states began enacting laws in the early 1970s to protect gays and lesbians. There are currently hundreds of state laws that offer protection against unlawful bias when making decisions regarding employment, housing, services, and treatment.

In addition to the District of Columbia, there are 17 states that have laws against making private employment decisions based on a candidate’s or employee’s sexual orientation. These states include California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Six other states have enacted laws that prevent public workplaces from this type of discrimination: Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, and Pennsylvania. Gender identity discrimination is banned in the states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Washington.

Many of today’s modern private practices choose to refrain from sexual orientation discrimination, even if it’s not regulated by a state, city, or county law. Instead, these employers focus on characteristics that are relevant to the job at hand, such as work ethic, software skills, and attention to detail.

City & county ordinances

Even if a state has no laws against sexual discrimination, gays and lesbians may still be protected by the existence of a city or county ordinance. There are more than 180 cities, counties, and municipalities throughout the nation that have enacted some form of sexual discrimination protection, although less than half of these ordinances apply to private employers.

Many private employers have also made the independent decision to refrain from this type of prejudice, regardless of the absence of Federal laws.

The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. If you feel that you have been discriminated against based on your sexual orientation, please consult with a qualified civil rights lawyer.

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