LGBTQ+ immigrant rights and laws

LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (trans), and queer. The plus sign “+” is for additional sexual and gender identities. 

In the USA, LGBTQ+ people have certain rights. In many states and cities, it is against the law to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination means being treated differently or unfairly.

Check this map to see each state’s laws.

LGBTQ+ people should receive equal treatment, but sometimes they are treated unfairly. Learn about your rights and where to find help. 

LGBTQ+ immigration benefits

You can seek asylum in the USA. If you fear harm in your home country because of your sexual orientation or gender identity you can apply for asylum. You can request refugee and asylee status for your spouse, too.

You can have a same-sex spouse or fiance join you in the USA. If you are a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you can petition for your spouse. Citizens can also petition for a fiance.

You can update information on your immigration forms if you legally changed your name or want a different gender identity listed. USCIS recognizes a gender change if a court or government recognizes the change or a licensed healthcare professional certifies it is consistent with your gender identity.

LGBTQ+ family rights

Same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage is legal in all fifty states and Washington, DC. Same-sex couples can get married, and the law protects their union. They have access to: 

There is fear same-sex marriage could be overturned in some states if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down federal protections. Organizations like HRC and Family Equality are working to continue to protect these rights. 

Domestic partnership

A domestic partnership is for couples, of the same or opposite sex, who live together but are not married. It can help you get certain benefits and rights, such as joining your partner’s health insurance plan. Each state has different rules.

Same-sex couples in the USA have the right to get legal protection, like receiving inheritances. Learn how to plan in advance to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Foster and adoption

Depending on your state, many LGBTQ+ couples have the right to foster and adopt children. 

LGBTQ+ rights at work

LBGTQ+ employees are protected by the law against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Some states and some cities offer specific protections. Your employer can not do any of the following because of your sexual orientation or gender identity:

  • Insult you  
  • Fire you  
  • Make you talk about your LGBTQ+ identity
  • Ask if you are HIV positive 
  • Share with others if you are HIV positive 
  • Treat you differently, such as:
    • Make you do more work
    • Not give you a promotion or raise
    • Change your schedule frequently or reduce your hours
    • Exclude you from company events

If you are HIV-positive, you have the right to get reasonable accommodations due to your medical condition. This can include taking breaks, frequent visits to the doctor, and permission to work from home.

If you suffer unfair treatment, discrimination, and harassment at work you can find help and report it

Undocumented LGBTQ+ workers have the same rights as other employees. Your employer cannot punish you for reporting discrimination at work. 

LGBTQ+ housing rights 

The Fair Housing Act offers federal protection against discrimination against LGBTQ+ people. It protects you from being treated unfairly when you are trying to rent or buy a home, get a mortgage, or are seeking housing. State laws still vary on housing protections for LGBTQ+ people.

Housing discrimination because of your sexual orientation or gender identity can include:

  • Refuse to rent or sell you a house
  • Threaten eviction or force you to leave your home
  • Deny housing is available
  • Deny access to a facility related to a sale or rental
  • Refuse to give you information about loans or insurance
  • Ignore your complaints about harassment from a neighbor

Landlords are not allowed to ask about your gender identity or your sexual orientation. They must call you by your chosen name and pronouns.

Discrimination increases homelessness in the LGBTQ+ community, find help

LGBTQ+ public spaces rights 

Local and state laws can protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in public places, but there is no federal law against it. Not all public areas have discrimination rules to protect the LGBTQ+ community.

LGBTQ+ discrimination in public places can include:

  • Threats and aggression
  • Inappropriate treatment
  • Insults and verbal abuse
  • Denial of equal treatment 
  • Refusal of service 
  • Physical assault
Learn what to do if you are being threatened and how to report it. If you are in immediate danger call 911.

LGBTQ+ healthcare rights 

LGBTQ+ people have protections while using healthcare. Hospitals can not deny you service or provide you inferior service. You have the right to choose who can decide for you or who can visit you at the hospital.

LGBTQ+ people encounter difficulties when finding health services and providers. Personal bias may stop providers from helping these patients. Also, negative experiences sometimes prevent LGBTQ+ people from getting the proper care. Access to emergency services is always protected. 

Health discrimination can include:

  • Difficulty in getting health insurance
  • Lack of social programs for LGBTQ+
  • Shortage of doctors familiarized with LGBTQ+ health
  • Negative attitudes

Transgender and gender non-conforming people are at high risk of discrimination in healthcare. Certain protections exist to support trans people who apply for insurance, but you are not guaranteed insurance because you are trans. Companies and insurance providers can tell you no for other reasons.

Find more information and support for transgender healthcare.  

LGBTQ+ rights in school

There are federal protections for LGBTQ+ people that bans discrimination in public schools. Many local school districts have varying protections of their own. Schools must respond to complaints from LGBTQ+ students and families. Students should also be protected from harassment for their appearance and behavior.

If you feel discriminated against in your school, you can find help and report it.  

Bullying is a common word used to talk about harassment. It is illegal in many states and can happen to people of any age. If you are being bullied, you should report it. 

Transgender identity rights

You have the right to change your gender marker and legally change your name on identity documents. These can include identification (ID) cards, financial records, and other paperwork that do not match how you identify.

Depending on your state, you may also choose to change your name and sex on documents like your birth certificate. Learn about the process of updating your ID.

LGBTQ+ resources and help

There are organizations that want to help you. Learn how to find free and low-cost legal help.

Service
Information
Report mistreatment or harassment
File a legal complaint for discrimination at work
Legal services for discrimination
Legal help and resources
Find services for LGBTQ asylum seekers, refugees, and undocumented immigrants
Legal services for discrimination
Find LGBTQ+ centers
Lists organizations fighting for LGBTQ+ rights
Help for those experiencing homelessness
Legal services for discrimination
Help to find temporary shelter and long-term housing
Legal services to LGBTQ+ immigrants seeking protection in the United States.
Help to change gender marker or name on driver’s license
Legal help and immigration resources for transgender people
Legal help and immigration resources for transgender people
Resources for LGBTQ+ asylum-seekers seeking protection based on sex.

LGBTQ+ helplines

If you are an LGBTQ+ person in crisis, there are numbers you can call for help. 

LGBT National Hotline
(888) 843-4564

LGBT National Youth Talkline
(800) 246-7743

LGBT National Senior Hotline
(888) 234-7243

Trans Lifeline
(877) 565-8860

Trevor Project
(866) 488-7386

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The information on this page comes from USA.gov 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.