LGBT Non-Discrimination Laws Are Needed Nationwide

Figuring out how many gay, married couples there are and where they live has been a challenge facing demographers for years. But thanks to a recent Treasury study, it's clearer than ever — the LGBT population spans the nation, according to The New York Times, who put the recently released data on a map. And seeing these gay couples across every state makes it abundantly clear that we need nationwide LGBT non-discrimination laws. It simply can't wait and when it comes down to it, piecemeal state legislation just won't work coast to coast.

Not only have many states chosen not to pass LGBT non-discrimination laws in housing and employment, some have actively chosen to discriminate against the population. Look at the backlash in North Carolina over HB2. That law not only prevents transgender individuals from using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, but it also supersedes any local non-discrimination ordinances, like the one passed in Charlotte. It's heartening to see more and more organizations boycott the state (for example, the NCAA announced Monday it would relocate championship events to other states in response to the legislation). But while that fight plays out, a quarter of a million LGBT people in the state can still be fired or kicked out of their homes in the state.

Only 20 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and D.C. protect their LGBT residents from employment discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Considering the map from the Times, that's just not good enough. Many of the areas with more gay and lesbian married couples are already covered, but even some of the areas with the highest rates of same-sex marriages are unprotected.

Looking at the map, Atlanta, Georgia; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and Arlington, Virginia are all in the top 20 areas for same-sex male couples. Georgia, Florida, and Virginia, however, do not have comprehensive state LGBT anti-discrimination polices. For lesbians, this is also true. Madison, Wisconsin, and Durham, North Carolina are among the areas with the highest rates of married couples. Wisconsin only bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, not gender identity — and of course you already know about North Carolina.

Yes, the map also shows parts of the country nearly devoid of married same-sex couples. But even states like Montana, North Dakota, and Nebraska have some. And given the small percentage they make up of the general population, what are the odds a non-discrimination bill will be passed in such states at the local level? Take North Dakota, for example. In the section of the state with the most LGBT people, only 0.17 percent of marriages are same-sex marriages (compared with say 4.32 percent in San Francisco). But there are still 33 couples there that need to be protected — and that's much more likely to happen at the federal level.

In 30 states you can get married today, and fired tomorrow — that has to change. The same goes for housing or public accommodation. The most sensible thing could be to amend the Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. But given the tough legislative fight, some LGBT groups have opted for a different name: the Equality Act. And nearly 70 percent of likely voters support it. Regardless of a title, it's more than time to pass this kind of law. Those 33 couples — not to mention the single people — in rural North Dakota depend on it.