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U.S. Report Finds Anti-Bias Laws Cover 60 Million

45 Million Added in a Sharp Increase During 1990s

Strength of the Movement at State and Local Levels


Compiled By GayToday

usequality.jpg - 9.94 K New York, New York--From the tiny town of Sorrento, Maine (population: 355) to New York City (population: 7.3 million), more than 37 million Americans now live in towns, cities or counties with laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Add in the number of Americans who live in states with similar laws, and the number grows to 60 million Americans, according to a new, comprehensive report released today by the Policy Institute of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

This is a sharp increase from 1990, when less than 15 million Americans lived in states with such nondiscrimination laws, and about 18 million lived in cities banning sexual orientation discrimination.

The NGLTF Policy Institute report, Legislating Equality: A Review of Laws Affecting Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered People in the United States, provides the most extensive description to date of local, county and state laws addressing GLBT equality.

This report is an invaluable tool for activists, journalists and policymakers who require reliable facts on laws affecting GLBT people but lack the time, resources or desire to conduct primary research. The Policy Institute is a think tank dedicated to research, policy analysis, strategy development and coalition building to advance the equality and understanding of GLBT people.

"At the dawn of the 21st Century, the strength of the GLBT movement is at the state and local level," said Urvashi Vaid, director of the Policy Institute of NGLTF.

"This demonstrates the power and success of local organizing, and it underscores a sharp contrast between what is happening in towns and cities where people live and what is happening in Congress, where conservative leaders repeatedly have turned their backs on GLBT equality."

Legislating Equality examines the status of anti-discrimination laws in all 50 states and 236 towns, cities and counties. Among its findings:

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Three counties, 20 cities and one state (Minnesota) prohibit discrimination based on gender identity in private employment. Yet 95 percent of Americans do not live in jurisdictions that ban gender identity-based discrimination.

More than 100 cities and 18 counties prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in private employment. The average size of a city with a nondiscrimination ordinance dropped from 362,696 in the 1970s to 225,541 today, reflecting the reality that more small and mid-sized cities are adopting nondiscrimination ordinances.

Thirty-six counties and 141 cities have ordinances banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public employment, while 20 counties and 108 cities ban discrimination in public accommodations.

Vaid said Legislating Equality dismantles the myth that GLBT equality is a concept known only to cities such as San Francisco or New York.

"In fact, it is the residents and activists in the cities, towns and counties of middle America who are leading the way," Vaid said. "Transgender people are protected from job discrimination in Louisville, Kentucky, and Iowa City, but not yet in New York City.

"Vermont has recognized that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as married couples, but Massachusetts and California have not. The truth is that the notion of GLBT equality has widespread support in the American heartland."

Vaid said that local activists are to be credited for the fact that hundreds of cities, counties and some states are more cognizant of the discrimination and violence that GLBT people face than most presidential candidates and members of Congress.

"The U.S. public overwhelmingly supports equal rights and anti-discrimination protections for lesbians and gay men, and this support has increased markedly during the decade of the 1990s," Vaid said.

"For example, 70 percent of Americans in 1999 supported the right of gays and lesbians to serve in the military, up from 55 percent in 1992. And 49 percent of Republicans support anti-discrimination laws for gay men and lesbians, compared with 42 percent who are opposed."

"Support for GLBT equality is solid in middle America," Vaid added. "Presidential candidates who oppose anti-discrimination protections are out of touch with the views of a solid majority of the U.S. public."

Legislating Equality comes on the heels of "Capital Gains and Losses: A State By State Review of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV/AIDS Related Legislation in 1999."

That report tracked 474 GLBT and HIV/AIDS-related bills in the nation's 50 state legislatures and the District of Columbia during the past year.

Legislating Equality is available for download at www.pfaw.org/pub.html. Copies are available to the general public for free via download, or for $10 via mail order. To purchase a copy, call 202-332-6483, ext. 3205.

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