Currently, there are no federal laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. Some states have stepped in to fill the gap, but Arizona is not one of them. Arizona allows discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment, public accommodations, housing, hospital visitation, and education. Some cities within Arizona have their own local laws that prohibit some of these practices, but there are no statewide laws.
Arizona is not alone. In fact, the numbers are quite staggering. Twenty-one states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment; 21 prohibit discrimination in public accommodations; 21 prohibit it in housing; 26 in hospital visitation; and only 13 in education. (All stats courtesy of the Human Rights Campaign.) These numbers indicate that there are huge gaps in anti-discrimination laws in this country, especially considering that an even smaller number of states also protect against discrimination based on gender identity.
What’s most amazing about these numbers is that polls show overwhelming support for anti-discrimination laws. To most people, it’s as simple as Gov. Brewer put it on Wednesday: Nondiscrimination is a “core American and Arizona value.” And yet, the law has not yet caught up with public opinion.
Most people don’t realize that American law permits discrimination. A 2011 poll found that 87 percent of people believe that federal law already prohibits discrimination against gays and lesbians in employment. Only 5 percent know that it is legal.
Well, one of the reasons for this has been the national gay leadership’s single-minded focus on one issue: gay marriage.
Not that many gays really want to get married. But most of them would like to be free to buy or rent homes, get jobs, educations, and shop for goods on the same basis allowed everybody else:
This law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.
Note that sexual orientation is not included here. Many conservatives think that is wonderful. Of course, those conservatives are bigots, no matter how much they squeal at being correctly identified and described.