Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights
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How Are LGBT People Protected from Discrimination?
Although, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people have yet to be guaranteed the same level of equal right protection afforded to other minority groups, there has been a significant increase in the passage of laws addressing LGBT discrimination. These new laws are being passed on both the state and federal levels. The following are some recent federal laws that have added to the protection of LGBT peoples civil rights.
- Hate Crime Prevention Act – The Hate crimes Prevention Act used to limit violence only associated with race and religion, but is now extended to sexual orientation, as well as gender and disability.
- Marriage – DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), which prohibited the federal government from recognizing gay marriage, was struck down in 2014. Since then the number of states that allow gay marriage reached the majority, with 36 states ruling that the prohibition is unconstitutional.
- Privacy – Sodomy laws are prohibited by the federal government.
- Military Service – "Don’t Ask, Don't Tell" was stuck down in 2011 and LGBT people can now serve openly in the military. However, transgender and intersex service-members are still banned from openly serving.
- Housing – In 2012, a federal agency issued a regulation to prohibit LGBT discrimination in federally-assisted housing programs to prevent housing discrimination.
- Medical Facilities – In 2010, President Obama issued an executive order requiring facilities to grant visitation and medical decision-making rights to gay and lesbian partners, as well as designees of others such as widows and widowers.
The LGBT community, as well as the ACLU and other advocacy groups, are at the forefront in lobbying the federal government to provide the same civil rights protections afforded to racial minorities, women, the disabled, and the elderly.
Although many states have been expanding LGBT rights well before the federal government considered the issue, the passage of these federal laws pave the way for more states to pass similar laws. Accordingly, each year the LGBT community continues to enjoy more protection.
Are LGBT People Further Protected Against Hate Crimes?
Whereas the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was limited to violence associated with race or religion, the Local Law Enforcement Act (LLEA) extends basic hate crime protections to include violence based on:
- Sexual orientation
The bill provides federal technical and financial assistance to state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute hate crimes. Since the FBI began collecting hate crimes statistics, more than 9,700 hate crimes based on sexual orientation have been reported. Since 1991, reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have more than tripled and consistently rank as the third-highest category after race and religion.
Are LGBT People Protected from Discrimination in the Workplace?
Unfortunately, there are certain civil rights that federal law has yet to extend to the LGBT community. The right to be free from discrimination in the workplace, based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in the private sector has not yet been addressed by the federal government. (LGBT employees who work for the federal government are protected).
However, many states have added additional rights for LGBT people. For example California has extended the right to marry, adopt and the right to inmate conjugal visits, as well as other protections. It is important to consult with an attorney in your state to determine whether there is a state law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination.
Do I Need a Civil Rights Attorney?
If you believe that you have been discriminated against on the basis of your sexual orientation, you should speak with an experienced civil rights lawyer as soon as possible.
If your claim involves employment related discrimination, you should definitely consult with an employment attorney. Again remember that, although the federal government has no employment laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, several states have passed regulations protecting LGBT employees in the workplace.
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Last Modified: 05-27-2015 11:09 AM PDT
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