NEW REPORT: Lambda Legal Report Reveals Alarming Scope and Scale of Anti-LGBTQ Discrimination, Underscoring Need for Urgent Action on the Equality Act

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March 10, 2021

As Congress considers legislation that would ensure comprehensive federal anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, Lambda Legal today released a new report underscoring the urgent need for Equality Act passage, based on new data and analysis that provides a snapshot of the alarming scope and scale of anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Based on statistics and data generated by Lambda Legal’s Help Desk — which provides legal information and other resources to thousands of community members annually in response to individual requests for legal guidance — the new analysis reveals that widespread anti-LGBTQ discrimination continues to persist in all 50 states, the District of Columba, and Puerto Rico, and manifests in many forms — from LGBTQ people being refused service in places of public business, to being evicted from homes, being fired from jobs, or being refused taxpayer-funded services, simply because of who they are.

“Anti-LGBTQ discrimination is ubiquitous, with nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ Americans reporting they have experienced discrimination in their lifetimes,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal. “This should be reason enough for Congress to finally close the many civil rights gaps that have left LGBTQ Americans vulnerable, unprotected, and too often defenseless against transgressions in virtually every realm of public life. Our new analysis reinforces why the Equality Act is so crucial — because fairness and equality should be for everyone, with no gaping holes for LGBTQ people.”

The report -- which analyzed data from the 4,468 requests for assistance received by the Lambda Legal Help Desk in 2020--  found that: 


· Anti-LGBTQ discrimination is ubiquitous. LGBTQ harassment and discrimination reports came from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

· Anti-LGBTQ discrimination cuts across socio-economic boundaries. 33% of people seeking legal help reported incomes of less than $20,000; 33% reported incomes of between $20,000 and $60,000; 32% reported incomes of higher than $60,000.

· Gender identity-based discrimination reports were dominated by issues related to identity documents, workplace, and prisons. Amongst reports of discrimination based on gender identity, 25% related to identity documents, 14% related to workplace harassment, and 10% related to prisons. 

· Sexual orientation-based discrimination reports were dominated by issues related workplace, relationships, harassment and violence, and parenting. Amongst reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation, 22% related to workplace issues, 20% related to relationship issues, 14% related to harassment and violence, and 11% related to parenting and children’s issues.

· Workplace-related anti-LGBTQ discrimination dominated requests for legal help overall. 13% of all calls were related to employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. For sexual orientation inquiries , workplace-related issues were the biggest driver of discrimination complaints, representing 22% of requests; for gender identity inquiries, workplace-related issues were the second biggest driver of discrimination complaints, representing 14% of requests.

· Difficulty accessing identity documents is a dominant problem area for transgender people. 25% of trans people who requested legal help were struggling with identity document-related issues.

· Students seeking help with anti-LGBTQ discrimination in school settings reported equal targeting based on gender identity and sexual orientation. 54% of all school-based discrimination inquiries  related to gender identity issues; 46% of all school-based discrimination inquiries  related to sexual orientation issues. 

· Anti-LGBTQ harassment and violence accounted for 7% of all help requests. Harassment and violence represented 14% of all sexual orientation-related inquiries, and 5% of all gender identity-related inquiries. 

· Criminal justice legal matters accounted for roughly one-in-ten of all anti-LGBTQ discrimination help requests. 11% of reports of discrimination were related to criminal justice legal matters, and 7% of all inquiries were received from jails and prisons. 

“Swift passage of the Equality Act is essential for protecting LGBTQ people at work, in school, and in the criminal justice system,” said Stefan Johnson, Lambda Legal’s Help Desk Director. “Abusive treatment of LGBTQ people can be stopped, and unjust systems can be repaired, but only if our leaders have the courage to stand up for the most vulnerable people in our communities. The sooner the Senate acts to pass the Equality Act, the sooner we will see a reduction in the systemic discrimination the Help Desk sees every day. I’m proud of the work Lambda Legal’s Help Desk has done in protecting LGBTQ people, but we need this legal updating for our ongoing, nationwide fight to ensure full equality for LGBTQ+ people, everyone living with HIV, and all Americans.”

Last month, the Equality Act was introduced in both chambers of Congress, and passed in the House with bipartisan support. Advocates for the Equality Act are awaiting further action in the Senate.

The full report — “The United States of Discrimination: Trends in Bias Against LGBTQ People and People Living with HIV, 2021” — can be found on Lambda Legal’s website hereFor more information on Lambda Legal, or to arrange a media interview, please contact Ali Ozols at