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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 15, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 37
Nearly 70,000 LGBT people in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming lack statewide protections from ongoing discrimination
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Nearly 70,000 LGBT people in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming lack statewide protections from ongoing discrimination

Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to existing non-discrimination laws would protect LGBT residents and would not be costly or burdensome to enforce

LOS ANGELES - Approximately 69,200 LGBT people in the mountain states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming are vulnerable to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a new report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

In a new series of state discrimination reports, authors Christy Mallory, State & Local Policy Director, and Brad Sears, David Sanders Distinguished Scholar, found that a only a fraction of the population in each state are covered by local nondiscrimination laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, and public accommodations. These three reports (Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming) are part of the Williams Institute's ongoing examination of the 28 US states that do not include sexual orientation and gender identity in their statewide nondiscrimination laws.

Currently, statewide nondiscrimination laws in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming protect people from discrimination based on race, sex, disability, and other personal characteristics but do not include sexual orientation or gender identity. Without statewide laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT people are vulnerable to discrimination and experience economic disparities.

'Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to these states' nondiscrimination laws would protect tens of thousands of LGBT people from discrimination without burdening the courts or state agencies,' said Mallory. 'Our research indicates that there would be only a handful of new complaints each year in these states, and existing enforcement systems could absorb these complaints without the need for additional staff or resources.'

Key findings from the reports include the following:

LGBT people in all three states report discrimination and harassment in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other settings.<>/i>
o In a 2003 survey of more than 1,100 LGBT people in Idaho, over half of the respondents said they felt they were expected to deny or hide their sexual orientation or gender identity at work, and almost 60% said they had been asked to do so by their employer. Almost a quarter of those surveyed reported that they believed they had been fired from a job, not promoted, or had not received compensation or a raise as a result of anti-gay attitudes in their workplace.

o In a survey of Montana State University students, 26% of LGBTQ students said they had been harassed in classrooms, and 53% felt that they had to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid harassment or discrimination.

o A survey of LGB people in Wyoming found that 29% of respondents reported that they had been discriminated against in employment opportunities, 20% reported that they had been terminated from a job, and 17% reported they had experienced housing discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

o Reports of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the three states have been documented in administrative complaints, lawsuits, reports to community-based organizations, and the media.

LGBT people in all three states experience socioeconomic disparities.
o In Idaho, 30% of LGBT adults reported having a household income below $24,000 compared to 22% of non-LGBT adults. Over one-third of LGBT adults reported not having enough money for food compared to 16% of non-LGBT adults.

o In Montana, 37% of LGBT adults reported having an annual household income below $24,000 compared to 21% of non-LGBT adults. Thirty-nine percent of LGBT adults reported not having enough money for food compared to 13% of non-LGBT adults.

o In Wyoming, nearly one-third of LGBT adults (32%) reported having an annual household income below $24,000 compared to 18% of non-LGBT adults.

Efforts have been made to prevent discrimination and harassment, but coverage is incomplete.
o Executive branches, local governments, private employers, and public universities have enacted policies to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. However, these policies are limited in scope and do not provide the same enforcement mechanisms as statewide nondiscrimination laws.

o In Idaho, only 30% of residents are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by local laws.

o In Montana, only 26% of workers are protected from employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under executive orders and local laws.

o In Wyoming, only 7% of residents are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity under local laws.

Public opinion in all three states supports nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.
o In a 2011 statewide poll of Idaho voters, 78% of respondents said they favored legal protections from discrimination for LGBT people, and 93% of respondents thought that skill and ability should be the basis of a person's employment, not sexual orientation or gender identity.

o In a 2011 national poll, 76% of Montana respondents said Congress should pass a federal law to prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

o In a statewide 2014 poll of Wyoming residents, 62% of respondents said they were in favor of adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's employment nondiscrimination law.

Statewide laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity would not be administratively burdensome or costly to enforce.
o Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to these states' nondiscrimination laws would result in few additional complaints filed, and the cost of handling the additional complaints could likely be absorbed into the existing enforcement systems with no need for additional staff or financial resources.

Courtesy of the Williams Institute

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