Yesterday, the Movement Advancement Project, along with our partners at the Equality Federation Institute, Freedom for All Americans, and the National Center for Transgender Equality launched a new report, LGBT Policy Spotlight: Public Accommodations Nondiscrimination Laws. This report provides a comprehensive overview of the gaps in nondiscrimination laws for LGBT people in public spaces—and the devastating impact of the lack of protections.
Among key findings in this report:
- Anti-LGBT discrimination remains widespread. In 2016, at least one in four LGBT people experienced discrimination in public accommodations because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2015, nearly one-third of transgender people experienced discrimination in places of public accommodations when staff knew or thought they were transgender.
- The existing patchwork of protections leaves LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination. Currently, no federal law prohibits discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Only nineteen states and Washington D.C. have laws protecting people from discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and sex, leaving LGBT people in 31 states at risk for legal discrimination.
- Opponents have launched coordinated attacks on the ability of LGBT people to participate fully in public life. The report details four distinct strategies: bathroom bans that would limit transgender people’s access to restrooms; ballot measures to repeal nondiscrimination protections; state preemption of cities and counties prohibiting them from enacting local ordinances; and, creating religious exemptions to nondiscrimination laws. These efforts are part of a larger attempt to create a license to discriminate.
- There is broad public and business support for nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. In a 2017 PRRI poll, 72% of Americans said they support laws that protect LGBT from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. A 2017 Small Business Majority poll similarly found that 65% of business owners agree that businesses should not be allowed to deny service to LGBT people because of religious beliefs.
This report has already garnered significant attention in the media, showing the resonance and importance of these findings:
- USA Today’s exclusive story: “‘Not just about a cake shop’: LGBT people battle bias in everyday routines” (Susan Miller, 1/16/18)
- LGBT Weekly: “New LGBT report and ad: Impact of Patchwork of Nondiscrimination Protections (VIDEO)” (Steve Lee, 1/16/18)
- Pink News: “LGBT people are battling bias even when they’re ordering lunch, study shows” (Jasmine Andersson, 1/17/18)
As the Supreme Court prepares to issue a ruling in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, public places have become the next battleground in the fight for full equality for LGBT people. The core issue is whether public accommodations—places of business, public transit, hotels, restaurants, taxi cabs and more—can refuse service to people just because of who they are or whom they love.
As a nation, we decided a long time ago that businesses and services that are open to the public should be open to all. Nobody should be turned away simply because of who they are.