A decade of progress toward LGBT equality in America
 

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posted Friday, January 1, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 01

A decade of progress toward LGBT equality in America
by Shaun Knittel - SGN Staff Writer

As 2009 draws to a close, so does the decade. While Gay rights advocates may remember 2009 for its political setbacks and frustrations, the Gay rights movement made remarkable progress in civil rights in the past decade. In retrospect, there is a lot that could be said for progress. According to a new report, the last 10 years have been a period of dramatic gains in equality for LGBT people in America. The study, "A Decade of Progress on LGBT Rights," showed significant advances, including a sharp increase in the number of LGBT Americans protected by nondiscrimination and family recognition legislation at the state level.

The report is a joint project of the LGBT Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr., Fund. The full report is available at www.lgbtmap.org.

"The remarkable achievements towards LGBT equality tends to be obscured by day-to-day struggles, and overall progress often goes unnoticed nationally," said Linda Bush, executive director of LGBT MAP. "By looking broadly at the last decade, this report gives a much fuller perspective on where we are today - and how far we've come in just 10 years."

"From over 50 years of supporting causes that help advance equality, we understand that making meaningful change requires time. But these facts make it clear that equal rights for Gay people are advancing at an exceptional rate," said Ira Hirschfield, president of the Haas, Jr. Fund. "Gay people and their families deserve equal rights and an equal opportunity to participate in their communities and the institutions that bring Americans together. We are committed to supporting work that brings our country closer to that goal."

The following is a list of key measures provided by the report.

KEY MEASURES BENEFITTING LGBT COMMUNITY
Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation: The number of states outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation increased 83%, from 12 to 22, between 2000 and 2009. The percentage of the U.S. population living in states banning discrimination based on sexual orientation soared from 24.5% to 44.1%, an 80% increase. Today, 134 million Americans are now living in states where discrimination based on sexual orientation has been outlawed, an increase of 65 million over the decade. Fortune 500 companies that protect workers based on sexual orientation grew from 51% to 88%.

Discrimination Based on Gender Identity: There was a remarkable increase in states outlawing discrimination based on gender identity and expression, which rose from just one state in the year 2000 to 14 states, representing nearly 30% of the population in 2009. The percentage of Fortune 500 companies that protect workers based on gender identity jumped even more, from just 0.6% to 35%.

Relationship Recognition: In 2000, no state extended freedom to marry to same-sex couples; one state gave broad recognition to same-sex relationships and one offered limited recognition. Now, five states extend marriage to same-sex couples, six offer broad recognition, and seven offer more limited recognition. Overall, the number of Americans living in a state that offers some protections to same-sex couples nearly tripled, from 12.7% to 37.2%.

Protection from Violence: The 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the first federal law to specifically protect LGBT people.

LGBT Elected Officials: The number of openly LGBT elected officials in America rose 73% between 2000 and 2009, from 257 to 445.

Public Opinion: The percentage of the public supporting the right of openly Gay and Lesbian people to serve in the military grew from 62% to 75%. Support for marriage equality has grown from 35% in 2000 to 39% today; there has been an even larger increase in support for relationship recognition that involves many of the rights of marriage, from 45% to 57%.

Safer Schools: In 2000, only one state had a safe school law that specifically cited sexual orientation and gender identity/expression for protection; by 2009, that number rose to 13 states. The number of Gay-Straight Alliance clubs in high schools grew from 700 to 4,700.

MIXED OR NEGATIVE RESULTS
Marriage Opposition: In 2000, five states blocked marriage equality through a statewide vote; today, 31 have done so, including 29 states amending their constitution to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages.

Homophobia in Schools: The percentage of LGBT students reporting hearing homophobic remarks in school remained above 99%, and LGBT students who reported experiencing harassment in school edged up slightly, 83.2% to 86.2%.

HIV/AIDS: New HIV infections among adolescent and adult men who have sex with men grew 10% in the decade, from 28,000 to 30,800 per year, as did the percentage of new HIV infections overall that occurred among men who have sex with men, which rose from 51% to 53%.

Military Service Ban: In spite of a spike in public support for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the U.S. military continued to discharge hundreds of Gay and Lesbian servicemembers, with the cumulative number of discharges under the 1993 policy nearly doubling during the past decade.

LGBT MAP is a think tank founded in 2006 that produces and disseminates research aimed at helping speed advancement of equality for LGBT people.

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund is a private family foundation created in 1953 which has awarded more than $364 million in grants to support fundamental rights and opportunities for all people. It has invested nearly $42 million in promoting equal rights and opportunities for Gays and Lesbians since 2002.



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