An overwhelming majority of Americans think there has been progress in the LGBTQ rights movement, according to recent polls. But they are also underestimating the amount of discrimination LGBTQ people face.
Eighty-four percent of Americans think there has been a great deal or some progress in the LGBTQ rights movement, compared to only 14% who say there has not been much or none at all, found a new CBS News poll.
When it comes to discrimination against lesbians and gay men, 44% said there is a lot of discrimination, but 31% said there was only some and 22% said there was only a little or none. People were more likely to believe transgender people face a lot of discrimination if they know a transgender person. Fifty-six percent believed there is a lot of discrimination against transgender people, but 66% of those who know transgender people believe the same. The poll did not ask about discrimination against bisexual people.
Among those who were asked what changed their mind about marriage equality, 12% said they knew someone who is gay or lesbian, 22% said they knew more about the issue, and 26% said people should be able to make their own choices.
Perhaps so many Americans think there has been major progress on LGBTQ rights because a large share don’t understand that there aren’t many federal protections for LGBTQ people. Despite the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized marriage equality across the country, LGBTQ people don’t have explicit national nondiscrimination protections in the workplace, housing, public accommodations, and credit.
A Reuters poll released earlier this month found that 45% of all Americans believe that federal law currently protects queer people from discrimination. Only one in three Americans knew that transgender people were not protected from discrimination in federal law. Forty-three percent of Americans said LGBTQ people were treated “about the same” as cis and straight people when it comes to health care access, and just 17% said LGBTQ were treated worse. Others said they did not know the extent to which LGBTQ people were treated differently.
LGBTQ folks have successfully argued that they’re covered by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the past. But there is no national law with explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has rolled back Obama-era rules and guidance protecting LGBTQ people and banned transgender people from the military.
On the state level, protections are uneven. Currently, only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination and gender identity in employment and housing and 20 states and D.C. prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. Fourteen states have nondiscrimination laws covering credit discrimination.
The Equality Act would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation in housing, employment, education, federal programs, jury service, public accommodations, and credit and lending. The legislation would also update the law to include protections against discrimination in public spaces and services like retail stores, transportation services, banks, and legal services. It passed the House in May. Nearly all House Republicans, or 173 members, voted against it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) does not plan to bring the bill to the floor, and a senior Trump administration official has said that President Donald Trump won’t support the Equality Act.
Although there have been signs of progress in LGBTQ acceptance in the long term, a 2019 national GLAAD survey found a decline in overall comfort and acceptance of LGBTQ people among people ages 18 to 34 in 2018. GLAAD said there has been a steady decline in comfort in personal situations among this age group since 2016. Thirty-six percent of cis and straight people said they were uncomfortable learning a family member is in the LGBTQ community, and a third said they would be uncomfortable with a child being placed with an instructor in the community in 2018, compared to 24% and 25% in 2016, respectively.
In addition to legal barriers and personal discomfort with LGBTQ people in family and education environments, LGBTQ people still face threats of violence. At least 10 trans black women have been murdered in 2019. In 2018, the FBI reported a 17% year-over-year rise in federal hate crimes in the United States, and threats of violence and assault against queer people continue.