Only one state has officially made gender-neutral bathrooms legal — guess which one it is.
Image via White House/Wikimedia Commons.
According to data released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), there are some places in America where LGBT people are welcome — other states, not so much. And as the divide between the two widen under the current administration, it’s important to know where you’re (relatively) safe and where your rights are threatened. As the New York Times stated in its assessment of the HRC data, LGBT Americans would be wise to brush up on their state’s laws considering federal officials have made it very clear they will not be stepping in any time soon to defend the civil rights of LGBT people. Now, when local governments fail these communities, it’s up us to push back. Or, as the overwhelming data suggests, it might be worth considering a city that does appreciate the contributions of LGBT folks.
[quote position="left" is_quote="true"]We’re at the mercy of our ZIP codes.[/quote]
Currently, 20 U.S. states (primarily located in the South, mountain West, and northern Midwest) do not have hate crime laws specifically protecting LGBT people. In 29 states, it’s legal for local businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers. And in 28 states, employers are legally allowed to discriminate against their LGBT employees. Idaho, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama are some of the worst offenders, with as many as six anti-LGBT laws per state.
According to the data, California might be LGBT folks’ best ally when it comes to legal protections. California is the only state in the country with laws requiring single-occupancy restrooms to be gender-neutral. It’s also one of just a handful of states with laws protecting LGBT youths from harmful conversion therapy. In California, there are explicit laws protecting same-sex parents looking to adopt. All in all, California has 52 laws designed specifically to support the LGBT community.
Still, as progressive as some states can be, it ultimately comes down to local governments enforcing those overarching laws. As Frank Bruni writes for the New York Times, “We’re at the mercy of our ZIP codes: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are often affected most by their municipality, not their state.” If we want to ensure equality for all, it can’t just happen in major metropolitan areas. Luckily, Lambda Legal provides all the resources to do just that. Before we can secure legal wins both big and small, it’s crucial to know our existing rights and lack thereof.