It’s been a year since the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, prompting Democrats to introduce the most progressive party platform in history when it comes to LGBT rights. Still, the fight for LGBT equality is far from over, as illustrated by many states’ attempts to pass so-called “bathroom laws” that discriminate against transgender people.
But although legislation has yet to catch up, public opinion has overwhelmingly shifted in favor of LGBT rights — to the point that the Republican nominee for president has mentioned the acronym in several speeches. According to a poll released today by the Public Religion Research Institute, 72 percent of Americans favor passing laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from discrimination, including three-quarters of Democrats and — brace yourself — two-thirds of Republicans.
In fact, most of those surveyed — 80 percent — incorrectly believe that it’s illegal “under federal law to fire or refuse to hire someone because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender;” only 14 percent know that it’s legal to do so. “People in their head just logically think, if marriage is legal, then workplace protections must also be in place,” Robert Jones, the institute’s CEO, told the Atlantic.
When it comes to “bathroom laws,” or laws requiring people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate, 53 percent of Americans said they’re opposed to such laws, while 35 percent are in favor of them. Unsurprisingly, Democrats are overwhelmingly against bathroom laws, while Republicans are split — 44 percent are in favor, and the same number are opposed.
So why would legislators hesitate to support non-discrimination protections? According to Jones, it’s because Republican elites haven’t caught up to the opinions of their electorate. “For elected officials, there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by supporting employee discrimination protections,” Brandon Lorenz, a Human Rights Campaign spokesman, told the Atlantic. “In a political climate where so much is polarized, the issue of LGBT equality is one issue where both sides are coming together.”