Brief

LGBT People in the US Not Protected by State Non-Discrimination Statutes

April 2020

Using data from the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey, this brief estimates the number of LGBT people who are and are not protected by state statutes that explicitly prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment, education, public accommodations, housing, and credit.

Highlights
Thirteen million people ages 13 and older in the U.S. identify as LGBT.
The nondiscrimination statutes in most states do not explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics.
Nearly half of all LGBT people lack protections from discrimination in employment, education, housing, public accommodations, and credit.
Data Points
8.1 million
LGBT workers ages 16+ live in the U.S.
3.9 million
live in states without statutes prohibiting LGBT discrimination in employment
3.5 million
LGBT students ages 15+ live in the U.S.
2 million
live in states without statutes prohibiting LGBT discrimination in education
13 million
LGBT people ages 13+ live in the U.S.
6.5 million
live in states without statutes prohibiting LGBT discrimination in public accommodations
11 million
LGBT adults ages 18+ live in the U.S.
5.4 million
live in states without statutes prohibiting LGBT discrimination in housing
7.7 million
LGBT adults ages 18+ live in states without statutes prohibiting LGBT discrimination in credit
Brief

At the federal level and in most states, nondiscrimination statutes do not expressly enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C. expressly enumerate either or both of these characteristics in their nondiscrimination statutes, although not necessarily in all settings. This research brief estimates the number of LGBT people who are protected by such statutes in the areas of employment, education, public accommodations, housing, and credit—and the number who are not.1

Key Findings

  • An estimated 8.1 million LGBT workers age 16 and older live in the United States. Nearly half of these workers—3.9 million people—live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in employment.
  • There are over 3.5 million LGBT students age 15 and older in the U.S. About 2 million live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in education.
  • There are an estimated 13 million LGBT people age 13 and older in the U.S. Approximately 6.5 million live in states that do not statutorily prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in public accommodations.
  • There are an estimated 11 million LGBT adults in the U.S. Over 5.4 million live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing and 7.7 million lack such protections in credit.

Our estimates are conservative in that state statutes also protect LGBT children and younger youth; however, due to limited knowledge about the size of these groups in the population, we could not include them in our calculations.

**Nondiscrimination statutes in Wisconsin prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. An estimated 14,000 transgender people in the state lack employment protections based on gender identity, 6,000 are unprotected in education, 21,000 lack protections in public accommodations and 19,000 lack protections in housing. These numbers were added to the total unprotected in each domain.

LGBT People in the US Not Protected by State Non-Discrimination Statutes

Our estimates do not take into account administrative and judicial decisions that have interpreted sex discrimination laws to cover sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination. Rather, we have limited our analysis to statutes that facially include the words “sexual orientation” or “gender identity.”