LGBT rights and laws
In the United States, LGBT people have specific rights. Some rights depend on where you live. Read about LGBT rights at work, housing rights, and anti-bullying laws. Find out about legal protection for LGBT people.
LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender or transsexual. Read about LGBT and more definitions, such as queer, questioning and intersex. Discrimination means being treated differently because of your age, sex, gender, or sexuality. It is against the law in the USA to discriminate against people from the LGBTQ community. But not everyone follows the laws, and attitudes toward the LGBT community are different all over the country. It is important to know what the laws are in your state.
LGBT rights at work
Your employer cannot discriminate against you for being LGBT. All employees have the following rights:
- Your employer cannot force you to talk about whether you are LGBT.
- Your employer cannot insult you or make jokes about your identity.
- Your employer cannot make you do more work or punish you because you are LGBT.
- Your employer cannot fire you for being LGBT.
Beyond these basic rights, there are different rights for public and private employees. Public employees work for the county, state, or national government – for example at a local public school. Private employees work for businesses, such as factories or stores.
Laws protect public employees from being fired for their identity. But if you work at a private company, your job might have different rules and actions about harassment. When you start your job, talk to your human resources department if you have questions. They will keep your questions and information private.
Employees with HIV
People in the LGBT community have higher rates of HIV than straight people. HIV is a contagious virus that attacks your immune system. It can lead to an illness called AIDS. People with HIV need time to go to the doctor and to take breaks if they are tired. You can take paid time off to go to appointments. You can ask for help if you are not feeling well. Your boss does not have to say yes.
If you have HIV, most workplaces have to keep your status private. They cannot tell other employees or people outside of work if you are HIV positive. But if your work has less than 15 people, your boss does not have to keep this private.
Your boss cannot fire you because you have HIV. But they can fire you if you are too sick to do your job. This is true for all public and private employees.
If you are undocumented, you have the same rights as other LGBT employees. The agency that monitors workplace discrimination cannot look at your citizenship. Your employer cannot punish you if you report discrimination. This is the law. But your employer might report you to immigration services. This is not allowed, but sometimes it happens. Find more information on undocumented rights at work.
LGBT rights in housing
About 50% of LGBT people in the United States say that they have been discriminated against when looking for housing. Housing rights are not the same in every state.
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia support laws that stop transgender discrimination. If you rent or buy property in those states:
- People cannot ask about your gender or sexual orientation.
- People cannot turn you away because you are transgender or gay.
- People cannot force you to leave because you are transgender or gay. If you have a lease or contract, it is legal for you to stay.
LGBT people are more likely to be homeless. If you are currently homeless, you are not alone. You can look for a shelter to stay in overnight. LGBT housing and shelters might not publish their addresses. This is to protect the safety of people living there. Your nearest LGBT community center may help you find a shelter that is not listed. They may also help you find more long-term housing.
Safe Place is a national program for young people who need emergency help and safety. Safe Place labels organizations as ‘Safe Places’ where LGBT people can go in an emergency. Places can be libraries, fire stations, social services, and more. They will keep you safe and help you. If they can’t help you with your problem, they will find someone else who can.
Bullying is a common word used to talk about harassment. Bullying includes saying mean things and any kind of unwanted physical contact. Cyberbullying is when someone sends mean or threatening messages online. This usually happens through social media such as Facebook.
Bullying can happen to people of any age and is a serious issue in the USA. In 21 states and the District of Columbia, it is against the law to bully someone because of their gender or sexual orientation. If someone is bullying you in your workplace, tell your manager.
If your child is being bullied at school, you should talk to their teacher. You might not live in a state where bullying is illegal. But even without such laws, schools must protect their students and employees. School officials will talk to the bully. If the problem is serious, the bully will probably get punished.
Legal organizations take cases for people who have experienced discrimination. There are general organizations and LGBT organizations. LGBT organizations support specific needs and do a lot of work for the LGBT community.
Lambda Legal is the biggest national LGBT legal aid organization. Lamda Legal’s helpdesk can review your case and connect you to local representatives.
The ACLU gives free legal help to people whose rights are being abused. The ACLU has programs for LGBT rights and represents LGBT people who have been harassed. If you need legal help, find your nearest ACLU location.
- Transgender discrimination in housing and at work
- LGBT: lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities
- Diversity in the United States of America
- Transgender terms
The information on this page comes from the US government and other trusted sources. It is intended for guidance and is updated as often as possible. USAHello does not give legal advice, nor are any of our materials intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are looking for a free or low-cost lawyer or legal help, we can help you find free and low-cost legal services.
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