America Is Split On Whether We Need New LGBT Protections

by Mia Mercado
David McNew/Getty Images News/Getty Images

A recent poll from Gallup shows that Americans are split when it comes new LGBT protections, with 51 percent in favor of new civil rights laws that specifically protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Forty-six percent say that such laws are not needed, while three percent had no opinion. To likely little surprise, this relatively even divide correlates heavily with party lines.

Among the demographics surveyed, liberals were the group most in favor of more legal protections for LGBT people, with 76 percent saying new laws are needed and 20 percent saying they are not. Republicans were the least in favor with only 27 percent saying new laws are needed and 70 percent saying they are not. Women, young people, and people who aren’t white were among demographics most in favor of new LGBT protections. While the U.S. has made strides in favor of LGBT rights, both in terms of public opinion and public policy, we arguably still have a ways to go.

According to another recent Gallup poll, support for marriage equality is at an all-time high. Sixty-four percent of Americans support the legalization of same sex marriage. However, that in turn means roughly one third of Americans don’t think gay marriage should be legal. While the opinion of one out of three people doesn’t negate the fact that marriage equality is a constitutional right, it is certainly shows our country is not in completely agreement when it comes to LGBT rights.

When Gallup first polled Americans in 1996 on their opinions on same sex marriage, the numbers were almost inversed. Only 27 percent of Americans surveyed said they supported the legalization of same sex marriage. In a little more than two decades, and in many of our lifetimes, we’ve seen the public opinion of gay marriage change drastically. While not yet perfect, LGBT representation in film is improving. Legislation, media representation, and public opinion are all deeply intertwined. Strides made in one help influence change in the others.

A survey done last year shows Gen Z is more queer when it comes to sexual orientation than previous generations. Only 48 percent of young adults born between 1996-2010 identify as exclusively heterosexual. They are reason number one why we need to make sure there are ample legal protections for LGBT people. If you need reason beyond that, here are seven.


At Least 11 States Currently Have “Bathroom Bills” Pending

If you aren’t sure where your state stands on ‘bathroom bills,’ you should see whether yours is one of the dozen that has proposed laws restricting transgender people’s bathroom accessibility to varying degrees. North Carolina is still the only state to pass a “bathroom bill.” However, states like Alabama, Illinois, Kansas, and New York are among the handful that have similar laws pending in state legislation. The language in this litigation requires people to use bathrooms based on “biological sex,” which is defined as the gender assigned at birth and listed on one’s birth certificate. These pending laws are led by the Trump administration’s withdrawal of transgender bathroom protections for students during the first month of Trump’s presidency.


Questions for LGBT People Will Be Omitted From the 2020 Census

While the upcoming survey made news recently after the Trump administration had appeared to remove LGBT questions from the 2020 Census, questions about sexual identity or sexual orientation have never been listed on the census. While standard, this type of omittance detracts from LGBT visibility when it comes to policy. In a recent letter from Democratic Senators regarding the removal of LGBT questions, Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Tom Carper explained why inclusion in the survey is so important:

“As you have stated in the past, complete Census data is critical ‘to meet a wide range of federal needs — from providing apportionment and redistricting data as part of our representative democracy, to helping distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds annually. This is why it is critical that the Census Bureau’s process to include subjects to fairly and accurately count all Americans is impartial and free from undue interference."


Few States Have Comprehensive LGBT Protections

This guide from the ACLU shows how few states have affirmative nondiscrimination bills, meaning bills that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and sexual identity in a contexts including housing, employment, and public accommodations. New York and Massachusetts are among the few states with comprehensive LGBT protections, which mean these laws do not have broad religious exemptions or otherwise allow discrimination against LGBT people through similar loopholes.


Trump’s Recent “Religious Liberty” Executive Order Presents a Loophole for LGBT Discrimination

In addition to stripping away more women’s rights, Trump’s recent executive order leaves LGBT people open to discrimination on grounds of “religious freedom.” Multiple LGBT rights groups have spoken out against the executive order, with the Interim Executive Director of PFLAG Elizabeth Kohm telling CNN,

"We are deeply concerned that rights and protections for people from marginalized communities will be even further subject to the whims of others' personal ideology controlling their lives, a concept entirely antithetical to the values of freedom and dignity our nation holds dear."


Conversion Therapy Is Only Banned In 8 States

Nevada recently joined seven other states in banning conversion therapy, a controversial form of therapy that tries to change the sexual orientation of gay and lesbian people. Though he has denied such claims, Vice President Mike Pence has appeared to previously support conversion therapy as per his website while running for Congress in 2000. Many health professionals and LGBT rights groups have deemed conversion therapy dangerous, with youth being especially vulnerable to mental health issues, including suicide, when subjected to such practices.


States Are Still Introducing and Passing Bills That Would Allow People To Refuse Services to LGBT People

There are bills being introduced as recently as this past month that the ACLU states are “harmful anti-LGBT bills.” In Minnesota, a bill was recently proposed affecting health care coverage regarding gender transition. Texas legislators proposed a bill which limits health care access (i.e. a student could be refused counseling from a high school guidance counselor based on that counselor’s religious beliefs.) In South Dakota and Alabama, it is now legal to deny gay couples from adopting a child, if it would “conflict with the sincerely held religious beliefs of the agency.”


Our Current Laws Are Leaving An Already Vulnerable Population Even More Vulnerable

Misconceptions about people who are LGBT have become grounds for legal action. “Bathroom bills” don’t account for the fact that one in two transgender people are sexually assaulted at some point in their lives. Statistics on domestic violence and sexual violence show that LGBT are disproportionately the victims on such crimes. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ people are three times more like to experience a mental health condition than others. Suicide rates are four times higher among LGBT youth than their peers. 40 percent of adults who are transgender have attempted suicide; 92 percent of those attempts were made before the age of 25.

If laws are meant to protect vulnerable populations, LGBT people are among the groups that need the most protection. Shift in public policy helps change public opinion, and a shift in demographic should be reflected in civil liberties. The world is changing, and it’s important our laws change with them.