LGBT and Sexual Diversity Discrimination Laws


Deeply-embedded homophobic and transphobic attitudes, often combined with a lack of adequate legal protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, expose many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people of all ages and in all regions of the world to egregious violations of their human rights.

Sexism, or gender discrimination, based on gender or sex is a common civil rights violation. Discrimination on the basis of gender takes many forms; including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and unequal pay for women who do the same jobs as men.

Sex discrimination involves treating someone unfavorably because of that person's sex. Sex discrimination also can involve treating someone less favorably because of his or her connection with an organization or group that is generally associated with people of a certain sex.

Discrimination against an individual because that person is transgender is discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII. Transgender discrimination is discrimination towards peoples whose gender identity differs from the social expectations of the biological sex they were born with. This is also known as gender identity discrimination. In addition, lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals may bring sex discrimination claims. These may include, for example, allegations of sexual harassment or other kinds of sex discrimination, such as adverse actions taken because of the person's non-conformance with sex-stereotypes.

U.S. law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is actually part of Title VII, but often mentioned on its own. The Act prohibits employers from discriminating against women because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.

Employment discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers is pervasive and harmful. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) offers Congress the opportunity to ensure workplace equality by protecting LGBT workers from employment discrimination. ENDA is pending federal legislation that would ban employment discrimination based on an individual's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Currently, fewer than a third of all U.S. states have laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and only a handful prohibit discrimination based on a person's gender identity or expression. There are no federal protections for LGBT civil rights.

New England has been a leader in the journey toward LGBT civil rights. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont all have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. Non-discrimination laws in Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression.

Protecting LGBT people from violence and discrimination does not require the creation of a new set of LGBT-specific rights, nor does it require the establishment of new international human rights standards. The legal obligations of States to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people are well established in international human rights law on the basis of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequently agreed international human rights treaties.

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