Educate Yourself, Educate Others: LGBT Legal Rights
Last updated Fall 2002
Local Laws and Policies
- State of Ohio
- The State provides no protection for LGBT people.
Laws in Other States and Cities
- Twelve states currently ban discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, public accommodation, and/or employment: Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Hawaii (only employment), Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, California, Minnesota, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Nevada (only employment), and Maryland.
- Only Minnesota and Rhode Island ban discrimination on gender expression and identity.
- More than 25 cities, though, do protect the rights of gender-variant people, including the Twin Cities; Seattle; Santa Cruz; San Francisco; Iowa City; Toledo; New Orleans; Tucson; Atlanta; Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and York, PA; Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, MI; and Evanston and Dekalb, IL.
- Marriage/Domestic Partnership Rights
- Same-sex couples cannot be legally married in any state, and 35 states have passed laws that would deny recognition to same-sex marriages performed elsewhere, should a state eventually enable lesbians and gay men to marry.
- The nearest any state has come to providing lesbian and gay marriage rights is Vermont, which enacted a civil unions law in 2000 that gives same-sex couples the same benefits and protections under state law as those who are legally married.
- Internationally, the Netherlands and Canada allow same-sex couples to be legally married, and Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland have laws that grant same-sex couples virtually all of the benefits of civil marriage. France, Germany, and Brazil provide many legal benefits to same-sex couples.
- Hate Crimes Laws
- Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have enacted hate crimes legislation that includes crimes based on real or perceived sexual orientation.
- Four of these states (Minnesota, California, Vermont, and Missouri) and the District of Columbia also explicitly include gender identity and expression in their hate crimes laws.
- Sodomy Laws
- Fifteen states currently have laws that make anal and/or oral sex between consenting adults illegal: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia.
- In four of these states (Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri), the sodomy law only applies to same-sex couples.
- While sodomy laws are rarely enforced, the existence of these laws is used in court rulings, especially child custody cases, to deny rights to lesbians and gay men because of their "criminal" behavior.
Federal Laws and Policies
- Since 1975, a lesbian, gay, and bisexual civil rights bill has failed to pass in Congress.
- In the last several years, congressional supporters of LGB rights have tried to pass a law that only bans sexual orientation discrimination in employment (known as ENDA, or the Employment Non-Discrimination Act), but this effort too has been unsuccessful.
- The Military
- Although the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was supposed to make it easier for lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals to serve in the military, there was a 92% increase in the number of people discharged because of their sexual orientation in the first five years of the policy.
- More people were dismissed on sexual orientation grounds in 2000 than in any year since 1987, when a complete ban existed on lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals serving in the military.
- Among NATO countries, only the U.S. and Turkey do not allow lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals to serve openly in their militaries.