It’s time for change: protect LGBTQ+ rights under law


Graphic by Alex Silber.

By Anna Koretsky

The 2012 legalization of gay marriage marked a major step in the right direction for LGBTQ+ rights. Six years later, though, some Americans are under the impression that legalizing marriage was the only necessary step to promote acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community.

However, the fight can’t end there; there still aren’t national protections for basic LGBTQ+ rights. In some states, people can still be refused jobs and services, fired or denied housing because of their sexual orientation or gender identity without protection from the law.

In order to combat these issues, Congress should effect a national anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination law.

Twenty-eight states don’t have protections against LGBTQ+ discrimination in employment, housing or public accommodation, according to the Movement Advancement Project. A national anti-discrimination law would ensure that across all 50 states, LGBTQ+ people have the same valuable protections.

Under federal law, employees are protected from discrimination of the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, age, disabilities and military service, as required by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But there are no federal protections for LGBTQ+ employee discrimination and only 20 states have employment non-discrimination laws covering sexual orientation and gender identity, with two more states solely offering protections against discrimination based on their sexual orientation, according to MAP.

With most states not having protections, 43 percent of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination at work and 17 percent report they haven’t been hired for a job or have been fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, the Center for American Progress reports.

As a result, many LGBTQ+ individuals lie about their identity and personal life at work for fear of losing their job or facing workplace discrimination. These challenges make it harder for LGBTQ+ individuals to support themselves and their families. A national law will help to assure LGBTQ+ individuals of their job security and enable them to take legal action if they are discriminated against.

There’s also limited protection against housing discrimination, so LGBTQ+ individuals often pay more in taxes when buying or selling a home as well as transferring ownership, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Couples may not be able to buy a house together or may lose their house on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

For public accommodations, only 19 states have non-discrimination laws for public accommodations covering sexual orientation and gender identity with two more states covering only sexual orientation in their laws, according to MAP. Public accommodation discrimination, which one quarter of LGBTQ+ people face, leads to LGBTQ+ individuals avoiding public stores and restaurants, public transportation, and doctor’s offices out of fear of discrimination. This avoidance often leads to mental and physical complications as marginalized individuals frequently are not able to acquire the materials or receive the care they need, not to mention the emotional toll of fear and shame.

Opponents argue that states, not the federal government, have the right to make their own policies on discrimination laws. The constitution doesn’t explicitly give the power of regulating this issue to the federal government and therefore, according to the 10th amendment, it is up to the states. However, federal laws and amendments have already passed regulating discrimination that were deemed constitutional. The 15th amendment, protecting African Americans, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and multiple Civil Rights Acts, ending segregation, employment discrimination and housing discrimination, are all anti-discrimination legislation passed on the federal level. These cover protection for people on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and disability. LGBTQ+ individuals deserve the same protections as these groups.

All citizens should be protected from discrimination, and it’s time for LGBTQ+ individuals to have their rights protected through national legislation. With the increase in social acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals over the past few years, it is time for the law to catch up.