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"Don't ask, don't tell" policy repealed on September 20, 2011

Transgender people are banned from serving since April 12, 2019Discrimination protectionsSexual orientation and gender identity in employment nationwide since June 2020, as a result of Bostock v. Clayton County and Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC .
Laws vary by jurisdiction, but most states lack protections against LGBT discrimination outside of employment. Federal protections are proposed under the Equality Act.Family rightsRecognition of relationshipsSame-sex marriage is legal nationwide since 2015 except American Samoa[1] and some tribal nations
(Obergefell v. Hodges) Recognized by the federal government since 2013
(United States v. Windsor).AdoptionLegal in 50 states since 2016

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in the United States have evolved in recent decades. However, LGBT Americans may still face some legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents, particularly in states with large conservative populations, such as in the "Bible Belt" in the Deep South and in much of the Midwest; in rural areas; and in some Native American tribal nations.

Many LGBT rights in the United States have been established by the United States Supreme Court. In five landmark rulings between the years 1996 and 2020, the Supreme Court invalidated a state law banning protected class recognition based upon homosexuality, struck down sodomy laws nationwide, struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, made same-sex marriage legal nationwide, and prohibited employment discrimination against gay and transgender employees.

LGBT-related anti-discrimination law regarding housing and private and public services varies by state, leaving residents of some states unprotected. Twenty-three states plus Washington, D.C., Guam, and Puerto Rico outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and twenty-two states plus Washington, D.C. outlaw discrimination based on gender identity or expression.[2] The Equality Act, which is currently proposed in the United States Congress, would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity nationwide.[3]

Family law also varies by state. Adoption of children by same-sex married couples is legal nationwide since June 2015 following the Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (though Mississippi did not have its same-sex adoption ban struck down by a federal court until March 2016).[4][5] Policies regarding adoption vary greatly between jurisdictions. Some states allow adoption by all couples, while others ban all unmarried couples from adoption.[6]

Hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity are punishable by federal law under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, but many states lack state-level hate crime laws that cover sexual orientation and/or gender identity. LGBT people of color face the highest rates of discrimination and hate crimes, especially trans women of color.[7]

Civil rights for LGBT people in the United States are advocated by a variety of organizations at all levels and concentrations of political and legal life, including the Human Rights Campaign,[8] Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Transgender Equality,[9] and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

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On June 26, 2003, the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that intimate consensual sexual conduct is part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, explicitly overruled Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 decision that found sodomy laws to be constitutional.[10] Despite this ruling, some states have not repealed their sodomy laws[11] and local law enforcement officers have used these statutes to harass or arrest gay people.[12][13][14]

Prior to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, same-sex sexual activity was illegal in fourteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. military. By that time, twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and five territories had repealed their state's sodomy laws by legislative action.[15][16] After the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in 2010, the U.S. Congress repealed sodomy laws in the U.S. military in 2014. Twelve states have had state Supreme Court or state Appeals courts rule that their state's sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have all had their state sodomy laws struck down by the courts, but the legislatures have not repealed those laws.[17] On April 18, 2013, the governor of Montana signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law; it had previously been nullified by the Montana Supreme Court.[18] On April 23, 2014, the governor of Virginia signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law.[19] On October 1, 2020, a bill repealing Maryland's sodomy law went into effect without the governor's signature.[20]

Fourteen states either have not yet formally repealed their laws against sexual activity among consenting adults or have not revised them to accurately reflect their true scope in the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas. Often, the sodomy law was drafted to also encompass other forms of sexual conduct such as bestiality, and no attempt has subsequently succeeded in separating them. Eleven states' statutes purport to ban all forms of sodomy, some including oral intercourse, regardless of the participants' genders: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Three states specifically target their statutes at same-sex relations only: Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas.

The age of consent in each jurisdiction varies but in most jurisdictions it is equal to the age of consent for heterosexual sex.[21] The exception to this is Texas, who's statute books still hold an outdated Romeo and Juliet law that makes the age of consent for gay and lesbian teenagers unequal to that for heterosexual ones.[22][23][24]

Recognition of marriage and adoption for same-sex couples

Marriage

2011 protest in New Jersey by Garden State Equality in support of same-sex marriage rights and against deportation of LGBT spouses.

The movement to obtain civil marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples in the United States began in the 1970s but remained unsuccessful for over forty years. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the Supreme Judicial Court's decision six months earlier.[25] Before nationwide legalization, same-sex marriage became legal in 36 states; twenty-four states by court order, nine by legislative action, and three by referendum. Some states had legalized same-sex marriage by more than one of the three actions.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states must license and recognize same-sex marriages. Consequently, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Currently, same-sex marriages are neither licensed nor recognized in American Samoa, due to its unique constitutional status. The legal status of same-sex marriage also varies in Native American tribal nations.

Civil UnionsLawrence v. Texas that intimate consensual sexual conduct is part of the liberty protected by substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, explicitly overruled Bowers v. Hardwick, a 1986 decision that found sodomy laws to be constitutional.[10] Despite this ruling, some states have not repealed their sodomy laws[11] and local law enforcement officers have used these statutes to harass or arrest gay people.[12][13][14]

Prior to the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas, same-sex sexual activity was illegal in fourteen U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. military. By that time, twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and five territories had repealed their state's sodomy laws by legislative action.[15][16] After the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in 2010, the U.S. Congress repealed sodomy laws in the U.S. military in 2014. Twelve states have had state Supreme Court or state Appeals courts rule that their state's sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have all had their state sodomy laws struck down by the courts, but the legislatures have not repealed those laws.[17] On April 18, 2013, the governor of Montana signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law; it had previously been nullified by the Montana Supreme Court.[18] On April 23, 2014, the governor of Virginia signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law.[19] On October 1, 2020, a bill repealing Maryland's sodomy law went into effect without the governor's signature.[20]

Fourteen states either have not yet formally repealed their laws against sexual activity among consenting adults or have not revised them to accurately reflect their true scope in the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas. Often, the sodomy law was drafted to also encompass other forms of sexual conduct such as bestiality, and no attempt has subsequently succeeded in separating them. Eleven states' statutes purport to ban all forms of sodomy, some including oral intercourse, regardless of the participants' genders: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Three states specifically target their statutes at same-sex relations only: Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas.

The age of consent in each jurisdiction varies but in most jurisdictions it is equal to the age of consent for heterosexual sex.[21] The exception to this is Texas, who's statute books still hold an outdated Romeo and Juliet law that makes the age of consent for gay and lesbian teenagers unequal to that for heterosexual ones.[22][23][24]

Recognition of marriage and adoption for same-sex couples

Marriage

[15][16] After the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in 2010, the U.S. Congress repealed sodomy laws in the U.S. military in 2014. Twelve states have had state Supreme Court or state Appeals courts rule that their state's sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have all had their state sodomy laws struck down by the courts, but the legislatures have not repealed those laws.[17] On April 18, 2013, the governor of Montana signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law; it had previously been nullified by the Montana Supreme Court.[18] On April 23, 2014, the governor of Virginia signed a bill repealing that state's sodomy law.[19] On October 1, 2020, a bill repealing Maryland's sodomy law went into effect without the governor's signature.[20]

Fourteen states either have not yet formally repealed their laws against sexual activity among consenting adults or have not revised them to accurately reflect their true scope in the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas. Often, the sodomy law was drafted to also encompass other forms of sexual conduct such as bestiality, and no attempt has subsequently succeeded in separating them. Eleven states' statutes purport to ban all forms of sodomy, some including oral intercourse, regardless of the participants' genders: Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and South Carolina. Three states specifically target their statutes at same-sex relations only: Kansas, Kentucky, and Texas.

The age of consent in each jurisdiction varies but in most jurisdictions it is equal to the age of consent for heterosexual sex.[21] The exception to this is Texas, who's statute books still hold an outdated Romeo and Juliet law that makes the age of consent for gay and lesbian teenagers unequal to that for heterosexual ones.[22][23][24]

The movement to obtain civil marriage rights and benefits for same-sex couples in the United States began in the 1970s but remained unsuccessful for over forty years. On May 17, 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state and the sixth jurisdiction in the world to legalize same-sex marriage following the Supreme Judicial Court's decision six months earlier.[25] Before nationwide legalization, same-sex marriage became legal in 36 states; twenty-four states by court order, nine by legislative action, and three by referendum. Some states had legalized same-sex marriage by more than one of the three actions.

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states must license and recognize same-sex marriages. Consequently, same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands. Currently, same-sex marriages are neither licensed nor recognized in American Samoa, due to its unique constitutional status. The legal status of same-sex marriage also varies in Native American tribal nations.

Civil Unions

Prior to nationwide same-sex marriage, fifteen U.S. states had civil unions or domestic partnerships. Many of those states retain those laws as a continued choice for same-sex couples, and opposite couples in certain states.

Adoption

Boston gay pride march, held annually in June

Same-sex couples are allowed to adopt in states and territories following the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage. Prior to Obergefell, various states by legislative and judicial action had allowed joint adoption by same-sex couples.

Citizenship

Naturalized U.S. citizens whose biological children are born abroad may be unable to obtain U.S. citizenship for their children even if their spouse is also a U.S. citizen. This may disproportionately affect same-sex couples, given that typically only one spouse is biologically related to the child.[26]

Former Restrictions

Defense of Marriage Act