New Democracy Maps

An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers & Family Leave Laws

The Bottom Line

An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers and Family Leave Laws highlights how discriminatory laws and unequal access to family and medical leave laws force lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers to choose between managing medical or family crises and holding onto their jobs and their livelihoods.

Workers may need extended leave due to the birth or adoption of a child, a serious illness or injury, or to provide care for a family member with a serious medical condition. Yet, in the 34 states where same-sex couples cannot marry, LGBT families are often denied equal access to job-protected leave and face added obstacles to managing such situations. Transgender workers may confront challenges getting job-protected leave for their own transition-related care.

When taking leave due to a medical or family crisis, LGBT workers risk losing their jobs, which could cost them hundreds or even thousands of dollars in lost income. On the other hand, staying at work through an illness, a child’s birth, or a crisis at home could mean getting sicker, not being there for their families, and potentially racking up thousands of dollars in added costs for healthcare, child care, and other expenses.

An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers and Family Leave Law examines the precarious circumstances LGBT people navigate and offers includes common-sense policy recommendations.

Recommended citation:
Movement Advancement Project, Center for American Progress, and Human Rights Campaign. November 2013. An Impossible Choice: LGBT Workers and Family Leave Laws (date of access).

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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