As protections for LGBTQ people enter the domain of the United States’ highest court, the vast majority of non-LGBTQ Americans believe that discrimination against LGBTQ should be illegal.
The catch, according to GLAAD’s 2020 edition of its annual Accelerating Acceptance survey: An overwhelming number of Americans, regardless of sexuality or gender identity, believe LGBTQ people have federal protections against discrimination that are, in reality, not available to them. That includes discrimination in housing, public spaces, employment benefits and the military.
Part of this dissonance, GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis tells USA TODAY, is that LGBTQ rights are largely being “left out” of the conversation.
“It wasn’t in any of the debates and it isn’t being covered,” she said, pointing out that the only time it was mentioned among the two presidential candidates was during a town hall by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
“There is also this false narrative that marriage equality was the finish line – that marriage gave us all the (same rights as) everybody else,” she said. “There’s a whole host of other rights that were overshadowed by marriage equality.”
Among GLAAD’s findings:
- 89% of non-LGBTQ respondents and 78% of LGBTQ respondents believe it is illegal to evict someone from housing because they are LGBTQ; 91% of non-LGBTQ respondents believe it should be illegal.
- 80% of non-LGBTQ respondents and 65% of LGBTQ respondents believe it is illegal to turn people away from a restaurant or other place of business because they are LGBTQ; 90% of non-LGBTQ respondents believe it should be illegal.
- 78% of non-LGBTQ respondents and 70% of LGBTQ respondents believe it is illegal to deny employment benefits – pension or health insurance – to an employee’s same-sex partner; 86% of non-LGBTQ respondents believe it should be illegal.
- 59% of non-LGBTQ respondents and 50% of LGBTQ respondents believe it is illegal to deny transgender people the right to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity; 61% of non-LGBTQ respondents believe it should be illegal.
The study, which surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,506 American adults, was conducted before the groundbreaking Supreme Court decision in June to prohibit discrimination in the workplace for LGBTQ people.
Still, in many spheres of life, LGBTQ people are not afforded the same privileges as their counterparts. Ellis and many other LGBTQ advocates also fear that the appointment of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court may further impede queer and trans people from obtaining necessary legal protections.
What federal protections aren’t available to LGBTQ people?
A vast majority of federal protections, contrary to public belief, are unavailable to LGBTQ people. That includes prohibiting transgender people to serve in the military, trans students accessing the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, married same-sex couples accessing partner health care benefits, and equal access to housing.
And crucially, the Department of Justice, The 19th reported earlier this year, has yet to enforce the June workplace discrimination ruling within federal agencies.
But even as lower courts use the ruling to extend some of these benefits to the LGBTQ community – trans students in five states, for example, are now able to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity after a federal court applied the Supreme Court ruling to the case – a patchwork of policies can never quite measure up to comprehensive protections on a national level.
“Our rights have only been secured through Supreme Court decisions, so our rights are decided by nine judges, whether or not we exist as second-class citizens,” Ellis said.