How businesses can still discriminate against LGBT people

Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide
Same-sex marriage is legal nationwide

Friday's Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage was a major victory for LGBT couples. But they can still legally be discriminated against in much of the country.

In most states their employers can fire them.

Their landlords can evict them.

They can also be denied service by hotels, restaurants and other businesses. They can even be denied credit and excluded from juries.

"Today's decision is historic, no doubt about it. But it does not end discrimination against many LGBT people," said Adam Talbot, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT rights group.

Related: Marriage equality: Not so fast

About 10% of 662 lesbian, gay and bisexual workers who were randomly surveyed said they have been fired within the last five years due to their sexual preference, according to Laura Durso, director of LGBT Progress campaign at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. And 26% of 6,450 transgender workers who participated in a non-random survey say they've been fired.

"In many states today it is legal for same sex couples to get married but to then be fired for getting married," she said.

Only 21 states have laws banning companies from discriminating against employees based on sexual preference. And two of those states still allow a transgender worker to be fired or denied a job.

Related: Same-sex marriage is legal. Here's what it means for couples

"If there has not been a wave of firings or evictions in those states, it's partly because people are staying in the closet in those parts of the country," said Stephen Clark, a professor at Albany Law School. "You can't do that if you get married. It's a public act that creates a public record. Even if you don't publish a notice in the paper or invite people, you are running a risk."

Advocates for gay rights say Friday's court decision makes it more necessary than ever to pass federal protections against LGBT discrimination. But such legislation remains stalled in Congress.

Related: Corporate America celebrates gay marriage decision

Many employers, especially large employers, have protections against discrimination for their workers. But without those company policies, or a labor contract, there is little legal recourse for an LGBT worker who has been fired or denied a job. In fact, an LGBT worker can still be fired by a company that's based in a state with non-discrimination laws, if that individual works in a state without those legal protections.

"Is discrimination as frequent as was racial discrimination in the Jim Crow era? I don't think so. But it's not difficult to find victims of LBGT discrimination today," said Sam Marcosson, law professor at the University of Louisville.

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