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Kate Sosin, Windy City Times: Report: Half the country without LGBT protections (with link list)

Report: Half the country without LGBT protections (with link list)
by Kate Sosin, August 4, 2011

Compiling data from LGBT organizations nationwide, the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) released a comprehensive report that illustrates that more than half the country is still without LGBT protections.

The Colorado-based think tank released its biennial “Momentum Report” Aug. 3.

According to the report, high-profile triumphs for LGBT communities in the past two years have had little impact on policies in 28 states, where protections for LGBT people are almost non-existent.

“You realize how far we have to go,” said Ineke Mushovic, executive director of MAP.

The report compiles data from major LGBT organizations nationwide as well as first-hand research by MAP to create a comprehensive picture on progress in the U.S. on mainstream gay issues. Those issues include partnership recognition, adoption laws, employment protections, HIV/AIDS rates, anti-bullying policy, immigration rights, the ability to serve openly in the military, hate-crimes laws and the financial health of LGBT organizations, among other things.

The report chronicles significant victories for gay rights movements over the past few years.

Since 2009, it notes, ten states plus Washington D.C. now offer relationship recognition to same-sex couples, more than half of Americans (56 percent) think that same-sex relationships are morally sound, gay people will soon be able to serve openly in the military and the federal government lifted the travel ban on people with HIV/AIDS.

Such progress, said Mushovic, is both the product of a change in popular opinions about LGBT people and the passage of years-old legislation finally making its way through government process.

“I really think that the amount of progress at this point is remarkable,” said Mushovic.

That progress has also slowed since 2009 when democrats held more political power. While the report illustrates growing support from republicans for LGBT rights issues, Mushovic said that LGBT-positive legislation still tends to advance more quickly in democratic political environments.

The report also goes well beyond policy issues. According to findings, the number of lesbian, gay and bisexual characters on primetime television has nearly quadrupled since 2001, with 23 LGB characters portrayed to date.

“In the past, if you did have an LGB character, it was usually a pretty campy stereotypical portrayal,” said Mushovic. Representations of gay people are increasingly more diverse, she said.

None of the characters on prime time, however, were reported to be transgender.

Transgender statistics offered a particularly grim reality, with 90 percent of transgender people reporting employment discrimination (as opposed to an estimated 15-43 percent for LGB people). In many parts of the report, such as advancements for LGB military service people, transgender people were left off altogether because no advancements have been made.

Transgender people enjoyed at least one significant win this year, however. Last June, the federal government stopped requiring transgender people to undergo sexual reassignment surgery in order to change the gender markers on their passports.

One area where LGBT advancement suffered was in the financial health of organizations, which continued to be outspent by anti-gay activists. MAP found that just four percent of LGBT Americans donate the LGBT groups. Part of that, said Mushovic, can be explained by the fact that 2011 is not an election year, but organizations also struggled in the poor economy.

Still the most startling statistic was perhaps that less than half of the nation’s states offer any kind of protection to LGBT people whatsoever. According to the report, just 22 states offer some form of protection to LGBT people. In many states, people can still be fired for being gay.

Those numbers are troubling, said Mushovic and not just because LGBT advancements have skipped over major parts of the country.

“I think there’s a false believe by well-minded Americans that we’re almost done,” said Mushovic, adding that the majority of Americans were unaware that in many places, LGBT people can still be systematically denied a myriad of rights.

“We’re seeing this two-tiered America,” she said, one where LGBT rights are rapidly advancing away from states now left in the dust. “There is a ton to celebrate but don’t think that our work here is done.”

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