State and local policies related to sexual orientation in the United States

J Public Health Policy. 2017 Feb;38(1):58-79. doi: 10.1057/s41271-016-0037-9.


Poorer health suffered by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) populations may be associated with public policies. We collected the laws that in 2013 prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation from 50 United States (US) states, the District of Columbia (Washington, DC or DC), and the 30 most populous US metropolitan areas. To facilitate future research, we coded certain aspects of these laws to create a dataset. We generated descriptive statistics by jurisdiction type and tested for regional differences in state law using Chi-square tests. Sixteen (31.4 per cent) states prohibited discrimination by all employers based on sexual orientation, 25 states (49.0 per cent) in public employment, 18 states (35.3 per cent) in government contracting, and 21 states (41.2 per cent) in private employment. Twenty-one states prohibited discrimination (41.2 per cent) in housing practices (selling and renting), and 17 (33.3 per cent) in public accommodations. Local (county/city) laws prohibiting discrimination were less common. State laws differed significantly by US census region - West, Midwest, Northeast, and South. Future analyses of these data could examine the impact of these laws on various outcomes, including health among LGB populations.

Keywords: discrimination; law; policy; same-sex marriage; sexual minority health; sexual orientation.

MeSH terms

  • Employment / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Homophobia / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Housing / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Humans
  • Local Government*
  • Marriage / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Public Policy / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Sexual Behavior*
  • State Government*
  • United States