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Rights of Gays and Lesbians

Gay And Lesbian Civil Rights

The average American does not realize that that it is legal to discriminate against another American on the basis of sexual orientation. A Greenberg Research poll in 1996 found that 85 percent of Americans did not know that federal civil rights laws do not prohibit firing a person solely on the basis of sexual orientation. Current laws do not provide a remedy to gay and lesbian citizens who seek legal protection. The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," meaning that citizens in similar circumstances should be treated alike. Only actions that aim to discriminate violate Equal Rights Protection. To use this as a defense when treated unfairly, one must prove intentional discrimination, not just negligence.

The gay and lesbian civil rights movement presses for fairness in five major areas: employment and the work environment (including the school environment), military service, health care issues, state ballot initiatives prohibiting gay civil-rights ordinances, and custody rights and state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage.

A Gallup poll in late 1996 found that 84 percent of Americans believe that gays should have equal rights in terms of the job opportunities available to them, up from 74 percent in 1992 and 56 percent in 1977. The poll also showed that 90 percent of Americans have no problem with gays as sales people, and two third approve of gays working in the president's cabinet, in the armed forces and as doctors. The Gallup survey also found that 60 percent approved of gays as high school teachers, 55 percent approved of gays as elementary teachers and 53 percent approved of gay clergy.

The gay and lesbian civil rights movement has been guided by the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., which was founded in 1973. Lambda's court battles have broken ground in issues such as honorable discharge from the military, medical coverage for AIDS patients, domestic benefits for gay couples, adoption and visitation rights for gay parents, and protection for gay and lesbian immigrants.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationGreat American Court CasesRights of Gays and Lesbians - Gay And Lesbian Civil Rights, Employment And School Fairness, Serving In The Armed Forces, Same-sex Marriage And Custody