TABLE 2.1 Summary of Legal Status of Lesbians and Gay Men in the United States as of May 1998


Positive Policies

Negative Policies


Marriage rights

Between January and May 1998, antigay marriage bills have been blocked, defeated, or withdrawn in 4 states.

Since 1995, 28 states have enacted laws that ban legal recognition of same-sex marriages.

In states with antigay marriage laws, lesbian or gay couples who legally marry elsewhere may be denied the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage (e.g., to visit a sick spouse in the hospital or make health care decisions on her behalf. Same-sex marriages are not currently recognized in any state.

Hate crimes statutes

19 states, plus the District of Columbia, include bias crimes based on sexual orientation in their hate crime statutes.

19 states do not cover sexual orientation in their hate crime laws.

Hate crimes statutes that include sexual orientation make it illegal to commit crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation (these laws typically also include crimes motivated by race, religion, or ethnicity of the victim).

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