Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) in the United States

“We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.” (President Obama, June 26, 2015)

The Obama Administration tried to made historic strides to expand opportunities and advance equality and justice for all Americans, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Americans. From major legislative achievements to historic court victories to important policy changes, there were a commitment to leveling the playing field and ensuring equal protection under the law. Fairness and justice demand equality for all, including LGBT Americans.

The Obama Administration’s efforts on social progress and equality includes:

Preventing Bullying and Hate Crimes against LGBT citizens:

  • Overcoming years of partisan gridlock, the President worked with Congress to pass and sign into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in October 2009, which extends the coverage of Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) collaborated with five other federal departments to establish a federal task force on bullying. One of the results was the creation of the website – > The site includes resources and assistance for LGBT youth, including examples of community groups that offer support and options to seek counseling. As part of the first-ever White House Conference on Bullying Prevention, the task force also funded a video called “It Gets Better” to address LGBT youth who have been bullied and are at risk of depression and suicide.
  • The U.S. Department of Education hosted five summits on strategies for protecting students, including LGBT students, from bullying and harassment. These events included an LGBT Youth Summit in 2011 and a meeting with transgender students in June 2015, with a sixth summit scheduled for August 2016.

Supporting LGBT Health:

  • In June 2009, President Obama issued a directive on same-sex domestic partner benefits, opening the door for the State Department to extend the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also expanded federal benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees and allowed same-sex domestic partners to apply for long-term care insurance.
  • In March 2010, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law by President Obama and ensures that Americans have secure, stable, and affordable insurance. Insurance companies are no longer able to discriminate against anyone due to a pre-existing condition, and because of the law, insurers can no longer turn someone away just because he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
  • The federal website,, designed to help all consumers find the health insurance best suited to their needs, makes it easy to locate health insurers that cover domestic partners.
  • The Affordable Care Act also makes it easier for people living with HIV and AIDS to obtain Medicaid and private health insurance and overcome barriers to care from qualified providers.
  • President Obama developed and released the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States in 2010, updated it through 2020, and is implementing it to address the disparities faced especially by gay and bisexual men of all races and ethnicities and transgender women of color.
  • The President has supported legislative efforts to ban the use of so-called “conversion therapy” against minors and released a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) study condemning the practice. This report, which was developed in collaboration with the American Psychological Association and a panel of behavioral health experts, is the first federal in-depth review of conversion therapy. As SAMHSA reported, variations in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are normal. Conversion therapy is not effective, reinforces harmful gender stereotypes, and is not an appropriate mental health treatment.
  • HHS funded the Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) to establish the first national resource center for older LGBT individuals. This center supports communities across the country as they aim to serve the estimated 1.5 to 4 million LGBT individuals who are 60 and older. This center provides information, assistance and resources at the state and community levels.
  • HHS now requires all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid funds – just about every hospital in America – to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients. The President also directed HHS to ensure that medical decision-making rights of LGBT patients are respected.

Other Efforts

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The President signed bipartisan legislation to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell on December 22, 2010, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the Armed Forces without fear of being dismissed from service because of who they are and who they love, putting in motion the end of a discriminatory policy that ran counter to American values.

Legal Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)

The Obama Administration’s efforts in this area include:

  • In February 2011, the President and Attorney General announced that the Department of Justice would no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act’s provision defining marriage as only between a man and woman, leading to the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions holding the Act unconstitutional.
  • After the United States v. Windsor decision, in which the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional, the President instructed the Cabinet to review over 1,000 federal statutes and regulations to ensure the decision was implemented swiftly and smoothly by the federal government to recognize the rights of same-sex couples.
  • The Administration has long advocated for a Constitutional guarantee of marriage equality for same-sex couples—a position the Supreme Court vindicated in its historic decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
  • In October 2015, after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced proposed regulations implementing the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision for federal tax purposes to ensure all individuals would be treated equally under the law (see below).
  • After the Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergerfell v. Hodges, the Social Security Administration (SSA) began to recognize all valid same-sex marriages for purposes of determining entitlement to Social Security benefits or eligibility for Supplemental Security Income. SSA continues to work closely with the LGBT advocacy community to conduct outreach to ensure that same-sex couples are aware of how same-sex marriage affects benefits (see below).

Protecting LGBT Americans against Discrimination

The Obama Administration’s efforts in this area include:

  • In July 2014, the President signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against any employee or applicant for employment “because of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or national origin,” continuing to set an example as a model employer that does right by its employees.
  • The Administration has taken several steps to protect and promote the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming Americans. These actions have included the release of joint guidance from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to provide educators with the information they requested to ensure that all students, including transgender students, can attend school in an environment free from discrimination. Additionally, the Department of Education published Examples of Policies and Emerging Practices Guide for Supporting Transgender Students.
  • The issuance of guidance from the Department of Justice that concluded that the prohibition against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses claims of discrimination on the basis of gender identity, including transgender status.
    Agencies, including OPM, the State Department, SSA, and HHS, took various actions to ensure that transgender Americans were treated fairly and without discrimination in the workplace, in official documents, and in the health care system.

LGBT Equality in Housing and Crime Prevention

The Obama Administration’s efforts in this area include:

  • In 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) commissioned the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the renting and sale of housing. The Department also launched a website to allow citizens to offer comments on housing discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Since then, HUD has continuously worked to address LGBT housing discrimination (see below).
  • In January 2012 and in 2015, the President issued a final rule and subsequent guidance to ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s core housing programs and services are open to all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Equal Access Rule makes it clear that housing that is financed or insured by HUD must be made available without regard to actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. It also prohibits owners and operators of HUD-funded housing, or housing whose financing was insured by HUD, from inquiring about an applicant’s sexual orientation or gender identity or denying housing on that basis. In addition, the guidance makes clear that sexual orientation and gender identity should not and cannot be part of any lending decision when it comes to getting an FHA-insured mortgage.
  • In 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development teamed up with the True Colors Fund to give LGBT youth a safe space to be their true selves. Over the next two years, the initiative has developed and evaluated strategies to prevent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth from becoming homeless or intervene as early as possible once they do become homeless.
  • The Justice Department issued guidance stating that Federal prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving same-sex relationships.
  • In December 2015, the Department of Justice issued Guidance on Identifying and Preventing Gender Bias in Law Enforcement Response to Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence. The guidance serves two key purposes. First, it aims to examine how gender bias can undermine the response of law enforcement agencies to sexual assault and domestic violence. Second, it provides a set of basic principles that – if integrated into law enforcement agencies’ policies, trainings and practices – will help ensure that gender bias, either intentionally or unintentionally, does not undermine efforts to keep victims safe and hold offenders accountable.

Rights of LGBT Persons around the World

The Obama Administration’s efforts in this area include:

  • The Obama Administration, in the context of advancing the rights of LGBT persons, included various public statements and resolutions at the UN.
  • President Obama issued a presidential memorandum that directs all Federal agencies engaged abroad to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT persons.
  • The Department of State continues to grow the Global Equality Fund, a multi-sector public-private partnership to advance the human rights of LGBT persons globally. Since the Fund was launched in December 2011, it has allocated over $30 million to civil society organizations in 80 countries worldwide.
  • USAID, the U.S. government agency primarily responsible for delivering international aid and assistance, launched the LGBTI Global Development Partnership and “Being LGBTI in Asia,” and funded a range of LGBTI human rights programs. In 2014, USAID released its LGBT Vision for Action, a document that communicates USAID’s position on LGBTI issues to internal and external stakeholders.
  • In February 2014, USAID appointed a USAID Senior LGBT Coordinator to ensure that the promotion and protection of LGBTI rights is fully integrated into all aspects of USAID’s vital work overseas.
  • In February 2015, the U.S. State Department appointed the first-ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons to lead and coordinate U.S. diplomatic efforts to advance LGBTI rights around the globe.
  • The State Department revised its Foreign Affairs Manual to allow same-sex couples to obtain passports under the names recognized by their state through their marriages or civil unions.

LGBT History and Contributions

The Obama Administration’s efforts in this area include:

  • On May 28, 2014, the Department of the Interior announced a new National Park Service theme study to identify places and events associated with the civil rights struggle of LGBT Americans and ensure that the agency is telling a complete story of America’s heritage and history. The results of the theme study are expected later this year.
  • On June 9, 2015, the Henry Gerber House in Chicago, IL was designated a National Historic Landmark. Once the residence of noted gay rights activist Henry Gerber, the home was where the nation’s first chartered LGBT rights organization, the Society for Human Rights, was formed in 1924. The Henry Gerber House is one of nine LGBT sites that have been designated as a landmark or historic place during the Obama Administration.

LGBT Housing Discrimination

Many same sex, transgender and gender non-conforming persons have reported discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation when trying to access housing. Read more to see what the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has done to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons have equal access to housing and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development programs.
In a recent survey of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming persons, 19 percent reported having been refused a house or an apartment because of gender identity, and 19 percent reported having been homeless because of gender identity. Findings of a 2007 Michigan study indicate that same sex couples face bias and discriminatory treatment based on sexual orientation when trying to access rental housing.

Recognizing these issues and utilizing its authority to promote decent housing and a suitable living environment for all, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) has taken important steps over the past two years to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons have equal access to housing and HUD programs.

  • Through its notices of funding availability, HUD required recipients of approximately $3.5 billion in HUD funding to comply with state and local laws that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity housing discrimination.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognized that, under the Fair Housing Act prohibition of sex discrimination, it has authority to pursue complaints from LGBT persons alleging housing discrimination because of non-conformity with gender stereotypes. the U.S. The Department of Housing and Urban Development accepted and proceeded with enforcement efforts on 114 such complaints, about three times more than in the prior two years.
  • HUD launched a webpage that includes resources for LGBT victims of housing discrimination.
  • HUD initiated the first nationwide study of LGBT housing discrimination that will provide national data on the nature and extent of housing discrimination against same sex couples.
    HUD published a rule that proposes regulatory changes to further ensure LGBT equal access, including clarification that a “family,” which is the term used to define persons eligible for HUD-funded programs, includes persons regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development anticipates publishing the final version of this rule by the end of the year.

To get the word out, HUD designed and implemented Live Free, a national media campaign to raise awareness about housing discrimination. Live Free includes digital videos, podcasts, Facebook postings, and print ads targeted to specific populations, including the LGBT community.

Social Security and Federal Tax after Obergefell v. Hodges

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, holding that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry in all states and have their marriage recognized by other states. This decision made it possible for more same-sex couples and their families to benefit from our programs.

The Social Security Administration encourage the LGBT people to apply right away for benefits, even if they are not sure they are eligible. Applying now will protect them against the loss of any potential benefits.

In 10/21/2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced proposed regulations providing that a marriage of two individuals, whether of the same sex or the opposite sex, will be recognized for federal tax purposes if that marriage is recognized by any state, possession, or territory of the United States. The proposed regulations would also interpret the terms “husband” and “wife” to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses. These regulations implement the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.

The proposed regulations confirm that terms in the federal tax code relating to marriage should be interpreted to include same-sex spouses as well as opposite-sex spouses, ensuring that all are treated equally under the law. It provide additional clarity on how the federal government will treat same-sex couples for tax purposes in light of the case.

The announcement clarifies the guidance provided in a 2013 IRS revenue ruling implementing the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. That revenue ruling said that same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions that authorize same-sex marriage will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The proposed regulations update these rules to reflect that same-sex couples can now marry in all states and that all states will recognize these marriages.

The proposed regulations will apply to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

The proposed regulations would not treat registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or similar relationships not denominated as marriage under state law as marriage for federal tax purposes. This rule protects individuals who have specifically chosen to enter into a state law registered domestic partnership, civil union, or similar relationship rather than a marriage, because they can retain their status as single for federal tax purposes.

The National HIV/AIDS Strategy

In July 30, 2015 President Obama signed an Executive Order releasing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy: Updated to 2020, detailing principles and priorities to guide our collective national work to address HIV in the United States over the next five years.

In 2010, the President launched the nation’s first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The Strategy has changed the way the American people talk about HIV, prioritize and organize HIV prevention and care services locally, and deliver clinical and other related services that support people living with HIV and encourage their engagement in treatment and care.

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older adults. Established in 2010 through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging provides training, technical assistance and educational resources to aging providers, LGBT organizations and LGBT older adults. The center is led by SAGE, in collaboration with 18 leading organizations from around the country.


When Congress passed the Older Americans Act (OAA) in 1965 to strengthen the services offered to older adults nationwide, it established the Administration on Aging to oversee the funding and programs channeled through the OAA.

Because the Older Americans Act directs the Aging Network to pay particular attention to serving populations with the greatest social need, the Administration on Aging has historically funded organizations to serve as technical assistance resource centers for marginalized communities, including Hispanic/Latino communities, African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islander communities, and Native Americans.

In the same vein, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded its historic grant in February 2010 to establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, it affirmed that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults have unique needs that must be met by providers across the country.

In February 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services announced that SAGE—in partnership with 10 leading organizations nationwide—had received a historic grant to seed the creation of National Resource Center on LGBT Aging. In October 2010, the center officially launched, providing critical resources for years to come.

LGBT: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about LGBT. This part provides references, in relation to LGBT, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about LGBT by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about LGBT and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about LGBT or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to LGBT and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting LGBT. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about LGBT should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to LGBT when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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