Special Report

These Are the 23 States with Little or No Protections to LGBTQ People

Progress has been made to improve the civil rights of LGBTQ Americans in recent years, most notably in 14 states including Illinois, Minnesota, and Colorado as well as at the federal level. A landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision extended all rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples, and in 2020 the high court ruled that Americans can seek recourse for employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (See other ways in which American life has changed in the last decade.)

Not every state protects its LGBTQ residents, however. In Pennsylvania — where on Nov. 11, 36-year-old Angel Naira became the 47th transgender or gender non-conforming person to be killed violently in the U.S. this year — there are no laws that address hate crimes based on sexual orientation or gender identity. (These are the states with the most hate groups per capita.)

The Keystone State also lacks LGBTQ protections in other areas, including adoption and foster care. Despite this, Pennsylvania actually ranks average in LGBTQ equality. The Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit civil rights group, has identified nearly two dozen states that offer fewer civil protections to their LGBTQ residents than Pennsylvania does. 

Many of these states exclude LGBTQ people from their anti-discrimination statutes. Others have passed laws that specifically target people based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity. In addition, many states also still permit conversion therapy, a pseudoscience that attempts to change sexual orientation, and allow defendants to claim temporary insanity when charged with assault or murder if the victims were LGBTQ people extending unwanted sexual advances. 

Click here to see the 23 states that offer little or no protections to LGBTQ people

To identify the states where LGBTQ communities have the fewest legal protections, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the non-discrimination laws (or lack thereof) in each state as reported by the Movement Advancement Project as of early November 2021. The percentage of each state’s LGBTQ population is from data published by the UCLA Williams Institute School of Law, and is current as of July 2020.

Note that the specifics cited for each state are not comprehensive. In all cases, there are additional examples of the ways in which LGBTQ communities lack legal protection.