By Lisa Keen
An independent think tank that studies the progress of the movement on equal rights for LGBT people released its latest report last week, and the assessment is a surprising “mixed.”
The Movement Advancement Project’s “Momentum Report” acknowledges “unprecedented progress” towards marriage equality in the past two years but notes that, while 17 states allow same-sex couples to marry, 33 don’t. And progress on other issues of importance to the LGBT movement, such as bullying and employment discrimination, “have slowed significantly.”
“In fact, over half of U.S. states lack even the basic laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations,” notes MAP, a Denver-based group whose work is funded by 13 foundations and LGBT supporters, including the Gill Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the David Geffen Foundation, and James Hormel.
“The fact is, most states have passed few or no laws protecting LGBT people,” states the report. “In the spirit of Charles Dickens’ famous line, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,’ the remarkable progress of recent years in some states has obscured the fact that in a majority of states, LGBT people still are treated under the law as second-class citizens.”
The report divides the states into three categories: “High Equality” states (20 plus D.C.), “Medium Equality” states (2-Wisconsin and Indiana), and “Low Equality” states. The “High Equality” states include California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New York. The “Low Equality” states include Arizona, Florida, Michigan, and Texas.
The report said momentum favors continued progress in marriage equality, in large part because public opinion polls show a growing percentage of Americans accept the fairness of allowing same-sex couples to marry. But it noted that, despite the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the availability of benefits involving certain federal agencies -Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare, to name three big ones–remains “unclear.”
The report also noted “real progress” in fighting discrimination through local government ordinances and major employer policies. It noted that 188 local governments in states with no sexual orientation discrimination protection now prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, as does 91 percent of Fortune 500 corporations.
Among the more interesting facts included in the report this year are:
* every state but one has an openly LGBT elected official;
* there are more than one million LGBT veterans; 71,000 are serving in the military currently;
* there are about 140,000 transgender veterans;
* only 21 states and D.C. have “unambiguous laws” allowing same-sex couples to adopt children;
* 20 percent of hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies to the FBI in 2012 involved sexual orientation bias;
* three times as many people between the ages of 18 and 29 self-identify as LGBT compared to people 65 and older; and
* “the number of regular and recurring LGBT characters on broadcast network television reached its highest point in five years during the 2012-13 season.”