The current patchwork of legal protections in states across the country and the existing gaps in federal civil rights laws leave millions of LGBTQ people without protection from discrimination, harming their lives and well-being. Discrimination is a serious, pervasive problem that affects the everyday lives of LGBTQ people and their families and communities. For example, according to the latest nationally representative survey data from the Center for American Progress, more than 1 in 3 LGBTQ adults faced discrimination of some kind in the past year, including 2 in 5 LGBTQ people of color and more than 3 in 5 transgender individuals.
The Equality Act offers a national solution by strengthening and expanding the nation’s civil rights laws to ensure clear, consistent, and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The legislation prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the areas of employment, housing, credit, jury service, and federally funded programs, such as those for health and education, as well as public accommodations. In addition to adding protections for LGBTQ people, the bill advances fair treatment by filling gaps in nondiscrimination protections in public accommodations and by protecting against sex discrimination in public accommodations and federally funded programs—provisions that also benefit women, people of color, and foreign-born individuals.
Resources and methodology for state-level population estimates and nondiscrimination laws
For state-level adult population estimates of LGBT people, please see the Williams Institute’s “LGBT People in the US Not Protected by State Non-Discrimination Statutes.” For state-level adult population estimates of women, please see the U.S. Census Bureau’s “State Population by Characteristics: 2010-2019.” For state-level adult population estimates of people of color, please see the Kaiser Family Foundation’s “Population Distribution by Race/Ethnicity.” Note that for the purposes of this analysis, individuals were coded as “people of color” if they were listed as Black, Hispanic, Asian, American Indian/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander, or multiple races. For state-level adult population estimates of foreign-born individuals, please see the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Place of Birth by Nativity and Citizenship Status”. For details on state-level nondiscrimination protections for various protected classes, please see the Movement Advancement Project’s “Nondiscrimination Laws,” the Williams Institute’s “LGBT People in the US Not Protected by State Non-Discrimination Statutes,” the National Conference of State Legislatures’ “State Public Accommodation Laws,” and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s “Discriminatory Denial of Service.” Authors’ calculations are based on data collected from these sources, and data are on file with authors.
To illustrate the positive impacts and expanded scale of protections of the Equality Act, CAP has created 28 state fact sheets that provide adult population estimates of LGBTQ people, women, communities of color, and foreign-born individuals who are currently covered by neither critical state-level nondiscrimination protections nor federal-level nondiscrimination protections and who would thus gain new civil rights with the passage of the Equality Act. These states have been selected because they lack explicit statewide laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination on the basis of SOGI in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Note that employment nondiscrimination protections have been excluded from this analysis because the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bostock v. Clayton County explicitly extends Title VII protections based on SOGI. Finally, because the Equality Act expands the scope of public accommodations locations where people are protected from discrimination on the basis of religion—which includes people who are not affiliated with a religion—all residents of a state would benefit.
The state fact sheets are available below:
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Caroline Medina is a policy analyst for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress. Lindsay Mahowald is a research assistant with the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center. Sharita Gruberg is the vice president for the LGBTQ Research and Communications Project at the Center.