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6 maps that show how far we still have to go for LGBTQ equality


Mashable is celebrating by exploring the modern LGBTQ world, from the people who make up the community to the spaces where they congregate, both online and off.

We’ve come a long way in advancing LGBTQ rights since the first Pride march was held in New York City in 1970, from the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in 2010 and the achievement of marriage equality via the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015, to last summer’s high court decision outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace.

Then there’s the Education Department’s recent guidance that extends Title IX protections to gay and transgender students in an effort to protect them from discrimination at school.

Yet there remain more battles to win to make the U.S. an inclusive and welcoming country for all. If you’re part of the queer community, many of your legal protections still largely depend on where you live. 

In 27 states, for example, it’s not illegal to discriminate against queer people in areas like housing. That’s around 165 million Americans who could be discriminated against in various ways, according to the Human Rights Campaign

Given the patchwork of protections, it can be confusing to know what safeguards are in place and where. The Movement Advancement Project (MAP), which conducts research to push forward policy that is inclusive of all people, is addressing this problem. Since 2007, the nonprofit think tank has published a series of Equality Maps to illustrate which laws or policies within the U.S. and its territories protect or harm the LGBTQ community. MAP tracks “nearly 40 LGBTQ-related laws and policies in all 50 states, D.C., and the five U.S. territories,” according to its website. This includes laws that hold up the rights of queer people or dismantles them, such as bans on transgender kids playing school sports on the team that aligns with their gender identity.

“I think a lot of people outside the [LGBTQ] community for a long time thought marriage equality was, if not the only issue, the most important issue…,” says Logan Casey, a senior policy researcher at the Movement Advancement Project who works on the maps. “That’s still a common misperception that a lot of people have about the reality of policy challenges facing LGBTQ people today.” 

In other words, the fight for LGBTQ equality goes far beyond marriage. Below are six MAP maps that show how policies as seemingly inconsequential and unrelated to LGBTQ rights as regulations that govern state driver’s licenses can contribute to violence against trans people. Or adoption policies still in place that could bar an LGBTQ couple from parenthood and deny a child a loving home.

“[The maps] are meant to give as comprehensive of a picture as we can but still make it easily accessible and digestible for anybody to look at,” Casey says, but adds that there are plenty of other aspects to the struggle for full equality that aren’t represented.

He points out that the maps don’t take into account current public opinion of the movement for LGBTQ rights, anti-LGBTQ laws currently being considered in state legislatures, and anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in a state but later defeated. 

“There are so many different ways to think about the policy environment and the social environment in a given state and ours is only one of them,” says Casey. “We have these core societal values of fairness and a chance at a good life but you see through our maps that, so often, those core values are in conflict with the reality of the policy landscape.”

“Don’t Say Gay” policies

The map below shows policies across the U.S. and its territories that prohibit teachers and school staff from talking about LGBTQ issues and people. They also “prevent schools or districts from adding sexual orientation and/or gender identity to their school’s anti-bullying and anti-discrimination policies.”


Discrimination against transgender youth in school sports

The below map shows which states prohibit transgender youth from participating in school sports.

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Discrimination in adoption policies

The map below shows which states prohibit discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people who want to adopt children.

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Image: movement advancement project

Discrimination in the foster care system

The below map shows which states allow discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people who want to foster children.

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Where conversion therapy can still thrive

The below map shows which states allow, prohibit, or are involved in legal battles on conversion therapy, a harmful practice which seeks to change a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

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Image: movement advancement project

Roadblocks for changing driver’s license to match gender identity

This map shows which states allow residents to easily change their gender on their driver’s license or have onerous requirements like proof of surgery or a court order.

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