All Americans, especially those at increased risk of discrimination, are watching closely to see how national, state, and local candidates meet the challenges facing all of us. Efforts to restrict voting, to ban reproductive healthcare, books and LGBTQ-inclusive education, to target longheld legal rights including marriage equality, employment nondiscrimination, and the care and support of transgender people and youth, all underscore the need for fair, accurate, and inclusive media coverage of the issues that shape our lives and our ability to engage in the democratic process.
Where Are We Now
This year, many candidates have spread inaccurate and harmful disinformation about transgender people and youth, including proposing and supporting legislation to codify discrimination against vulnerable young people. State legislatures have proposed and passed a record number of anti-LGBTQ bills.
In the 2020 election LGBTQ people showed up in record numbers. According to GLAAD’s 2020 Post-Election Poll, 93% of registered LGBTQ voters turned out, and an astonishing 25% were first time voters. Voting is a powerful way to fight for LGBTQ rights and ensure that pro-equality voices are at every decision-making table, and it requires a media who take seriously the responsibility to accurately report on the issues.
GLAAD’s role is to ensure that the media covering the campaign and citizens considering who to vote for have the information they need about LGBTQ lives and issues. GLAAD’s role as the world’s largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization is to ensure that candidates, the media and voters accurately include LGBTQ people in conversations about issues important to all of us. These are some of the issues to include in your coverage.
Discrimination and The Equality Act
Americans may have assumed that after marriage equality was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2015, LGBTQ Americans had achieved full equal rights. But that is not the case. While LGBTQ people are able to marry who they love, they can still be fired from their jobs, denied affordable housing, or refused service simply for being LGBTQ. In addition, Justices on the Supreme Court have also called for the reconsideration of LGBTQ rights, including to private relationships and marriage.
We’ve seen open discrimination play out across the country. GLAAD’s 2022 Accelerating Acceptance survey of LGBTQ Americans found that 70% report increased discrimination since 2022. Currently, 26 states and the District of Columbia have some form of nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans.
The Equality Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives on February 25, 2021, and is awaiting action in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this landmark legislation will provide LGBTQ Americans with federal nondiscrimination protections for the first time in history.
The Equality Act provides comprehensive protections for every LGBTQ American, prohibiting discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in housing, public accommodations, education, federal funding, employment, access to credit, and jury service. Discrimination prevents “the full participation of LGBTQ people in society,” as the text of the act states. The Equality Act also expands protections for all women and for people of faith.
Currently the 1964 Civil Rights Act includes protections for only four areas of public accommodation: hotels/lodging, restaurants, entertainment spaces like movie theaters and sports arenas, and entities located within those spaces. The Equality Act ensures protections in those spaces for race, religion, national origin, and sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. It also expands the range of covered public accommodations to include retail stores, transportation, and healthcare providers.
LGBTQ Americans are not fully protected from discrimination in 29 states, including 93% of LGBTQ Southerners who live in a state that does not have laws to protect them in virtually every aspect of daily life. Research shows more than one in three LGBTQ Americans faced discrimination of some kind in the past year. Three-in-ten LGBTQ Americans faced difficulties last year accessing necessary medical care due to cost issues, including more than half of transgender Americans.
- 51% LGBTQ people say they experienced harassment or discrimination in a public place such as a store, public transportation, or a restroom
- 36% faced harassment or discrimination in the workplace
- 21% faced harassment or discrimination at school
LGBTQ people face increased risk of violence. Allowing discrimination further threatens LGBTQ people, and wrongly normalizes and encourages unequal treatment, as violators face no consequences under the law.
For more facts on The Equality Act, click on this guide for journalists.
BREAKING: The House has voted 224-206 to pass the #EqualityAct, which would protect LGBTQ people in areas including in housing, education, public accommodations and access to credit. pic.twitter.com/89tiZEflzb
— GLAAD (@glaad) February 25, 2021
In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that every American has the constitutional right to marry the person they love. But more recently the Supreme Court signaled its willingness to strip Americans of that right. Justices Clarence Thomas (right) and Samuel Alito (far right) issued a formal rebuke of Obergefell on the Court’s opening day in October 2020, and Justice Thomas, in his concurrence in the decision overturning Roe v. Wade, wrote that the Court “should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents” including precedents that protect privacy in same-sex relationships, and marriage equality.
A record high number of Americans, 71%, support marriage equality, seven years after it was legalized nationwide in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision, yet state legislatures, some courts, and some governors have stated their desire to undo the equal right to marriage, constituting an attack on LGBTQ people.
In July 2022, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan Respect for Marriage Act, which would reaffirm that the freedom to marry is the settled law of the land and provide comfort and clarity to millions of families across the country, protecting from additional attacks from the existing majority on the Supreme Court. The Respect for Marriage Act would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), enshrine marriage equality for the purposes of federal law, and provide additional legal protections for marriage equality.
GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide has guidance for reporters covering LGBTQ couples and families accurately and inclusively.
Misinformation About Gender-Affirming Healthcare
Anti-LGBTQ activists are targeting healthcare access. 2022 has been a record-setting year for state legislation attacking LGBTQ adults and children, with legislators introducing more than 240 anti-LGBTQ bills. According to Freedom for All Americans, most bills (120) have targeted transgender people and youth, and many take aim at evidence-based, best practices healthcare.
In May 2021, President Joe Biden restored federal protections for LGBTQ people seeking healthcare that had been removed by the Trump administration, but state lawmakers have stepped up attacks. As of March 2022, 15 states have restricted access to gender-affirming care or have legislation that would limit such care. The bills carry severe penalties for providers and for the families or guardians of minors who support their care. These bills propogate serious untruths about transgender children, and the bills ban best practice medical care for transgender youth that is supported by all leading health authorities. These bills are among the most extreme political attacks on transgender people.
Coverage should include the fact that professional medical associations support trans healthcare. Leading medical associations, including the American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics, all support gender-affirming care for transgender youth as safe, effective, and lifesaving. Denying medical care and support to transgender youth has been shown to contribute to depression, social isolation, risk of self-harm, and suicidal behavior. Research shows that transgender youth whose families support their gender identity have a 52% decrease in suicidal thoughts, a 46% decrease in suicide attempts, and significant increases in self-esteem and general health.
Bring in expert opinion. Be cautious of inviting non-transgender voices to talk about transgender people, rather than talking to transgender people themselves. When there is a policy issue or a campaign that affects transgender people, consider interviewing trans people who have leadership roles in the community and who are fully prepared to discuss the issue in depth. Ask lawmakers proposing these bills if they have consulted transgender constituents and medical professionals who treat trans people and youth.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the devastating consequences of discrimination, systemic racism and inequality—literally on a person’s chance of living or dying. Inequities in access to education lead to lower paying jobs with fewer benefits, like paid sick leave, and to frontline industries with close contact to others. Discrimination also keeps people from seeking medical care, or from receiving quality care when they do. Nearly 1 in 4 transgender people avoided seeking health care due to fear of discrimination or mistreatment.
America has also yet to reconcile with a previous pandemic still impacting the LGBTQ community—HIV-AIDS—and again, discrimination plays a signficant role. A 2020 GLAAD survey shows 89% of Americans believe there is a stigma around living with HIV. Only 60% believe HIV is a medical condition that can be treated, which it is, with proper medication and care. Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV today. One in 7 of them don’t know it and need testing. Black gay men account for 42% of new infections. Funding for HIV services is falling short of the need and has been used as a bargaining chip to trade away other critical services for marginalized Americans.
The past few years have seen a disturbing uptick in attempts to ban books and inclusive lesson plans from schools, as extremist groups and politicians falsely frame accurate teachings about race and LGBTQ issues as “indoctrination” or even “grooming.” The pace of such censorship is accelerating rapidly; thousands of book titles have been banned or challenged in 2021 and 2022. And library workers and patrons are being intimidated and threatened with violence.
Legislators proposed 93 anti-LGBTQ school policy bills aiming to restrict teaching materials or what teachers can discuss in classrooms. In a number of states, those laws passed and are now in effect—including Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law and similar laws in Missouri, South Dakota, and Tennessee.
Often, extremist elected officials and anti-LGBTQ groups claim that concerns over reading and learning materials are coming from local parents, but research has shown that elected officials are applying political pressure and leading the charge to censor books. All kids deserve to see themselves reflected in the books they read and at school, and attempts to censor diverse materials amount to discrimination.
In June, the American Library Association issued a statement condemning threats against library workers and patrons, saying that “violence, threats of violence and other acts of intimidation” were largely targeting books by or about “gay, queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous, persons of color, those with disabilities and religious minorities.”
Coverage should note that the removal of books from school libraries based on personal opposition to their content is illegal. In 1982, after the Moral Majority-inspired wave of book bannings, the Supreme Court ruled that a Long Island school district violated students’ constitutional rights under the First Amendment when it banned a selection of books.
For more information and best practices for reporting on censorship in schools, see GLAAD’s Media Guide: Reporting on Book Bannings and School Censorship.
Abortion is an LGBTQ issue. Many lesbians, bisexual and queer women, nonbinary and intersex people, and transgender men can and do get pregnant—and can and do seek abortion services. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, 2022, in its ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson, igniting a series of state bans on abortion around the country, a wave of activism, and a heightened area of media coverage.
Many people in the LGBTQ community are directly affected by new laws restricting or banning abortion. LGBTQ women statistically seek abortion at rates higher than their straight peers.
Many of the most prominent national organizations leading the ban on abortion are also deeply involved in anti-LGBTQ efforts nationwide, especially anti-transgender efforts. Anti-LGBTQ organizations including Alliance Defending Freedom, Heritage Foundation, and Family Policy Alliance spread misinformation to advocate for book bans and school censorship, to bolster anti-LGBTQ state legislation, and to block access to affirming healthcare for transgender youth.
Coverage should include LGBTQ people in stories about people needing abortion services, and to include LGBTQ advocates who can provide context on the close parallels between abortion bans and bills restricting LGBTQ people and youth from lifesaving gender-affirming care. Inclusive language is a necessary part of thorough and accurate coverage of abortion, whether specifically covered as an LGBTQ issue or not.
For more information go to GLAAD’s Media Guide: Abortion as an LGBTQ Issue.
Voting rights are an LGBTQ issue. Twenty-nine states have no protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and 93% of LGBTQ Southerners live in a state that does not have laws to protect them in virtually every aspect of daily life. Bills are being proposed in state legislatures that restrict LGBTQ people and especially transgender youth access to necessities and basic dignities: bathrooms, healthcare, and school sports.
State and local elections are vital to LGBTQ equality, making the right to vote especially significant to LGBTQ people. Last year, more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in 35 states, with the highest number of anti-LGBTQ bills passed in a single legislative session. Many bills directly targeted the basic rights of transgender youth, banning them from necessary healthcare or access to school sports. Laws that limit LGBTQ people from voting block their ability to choose lawmakers who will defend and protect their health, safety, education, and access to society without discrimination.
The National Center for Transgender Equality has created a guide to ensure transgender voters can exercise their right to vote. Click here for more information from GLAAD on the ways in which voting rights are integral to LGBTQ equality.
GLAAD is here to help you cover and understand these issues thoroughly during the 2022 campaign. Click here for our Media Reference Guide. For a guide on how to accurately cover issues important to transgender Americans, click here.
Should any questions arise about the LGBTQ community, feel free to rely on GLAAD as your go-to resource. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org