LGBTQ Equality Maps Updates: April 2021

Movement Advancement Project
3 min readApr 14, 2021

MAP’s interactive LGBTQ Equality Maps provide a comprehensive look at the current state of laws and policies impacting LGBTQ people across the United States. The Equality Maps offer a state-by-state comparison of the policy landscape and gaps in protections for LGBTQ people across the country.

To keep you informed on this regularly changing landscape, here are the updates as of April 2021.

Two New Equality Maps Tracking Anti-Transgender Laws

Due to state legislative developments, we’ve added two new maps to our Equality Maps. We are now tracking bans on transgender youth participation in sports and bans on best practice medical care for transgender youth.

Last month alone, four states (Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Dakota) enacted laws banning transgender youth from participating in sports consistent with their gender identity. These bills have been introduced in at least 30 states and counting this year, and are some of the worst political attacks on LGBTQ people in recent memory.

Arkansas became the first state to ban best practice medical care for transgender youth. These kinds of bills have been introduced in at least 21 states this year. The Arkansas law also prohibits the state’s Medicaid policy from covering gender-affirming care for trans youth, prohibits private insurers from covering such care for minors, allows private insurers to refuse to cover gender-affirming care for people of any age.

Other Setbacks in the States: Religious Exemptions

South Dakota became the first state since 2015 to pass a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and in Arkansas, a religious exemption for healthcare providers was signed into law. Similar bills to Arkansas’ new law, now on the books in five states, allow medical providers to refuse to provide non-emergency medical care if doing so would conflict with their religious beliefs. This has the potential to impact not only LGBTQ people but also women, people living with HIV, and many others.

Progress in the States

Virginia witnessed major advances for equality:

  • Introduced by Rep. Danica Roem, the country’s first openly transgender state legislator, HB2132 banned the use of “gay/trans panic” defenses in the courtroom. Virginia is now the 12th state with this law, and the first state in the South to ban the defense.
  • Through SB1138, Virginia repealed and modernized multiple aspects of its HIV criminalization law. However, the state still has a general “infectious substances” law that could allow for prosecution of people living with HIV, and the repeal did not remove the felony punishment if prosecuted.

Update to Texas’ equality ranking:

  • The Texas Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock — which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — applies to the state’s employment nondiscrimination law, as well as to state employees. This development moves Texas from “negative” to “low” on our overall LGBTQ policy tally.

Advances in Local Communities to Prohibit Discrimination

Local cities and communities continue to make advances in securing vital nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people.

Comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinances were passed in:

  • Mesa, Arizona: the first LGBTQ-inclusive ordinance in the state since 2018.
  • Crescent Springs, Kentucky: the first LGBTQ-inclusive ordinance in the state this year.

Partial nondiscrimination ordinance was passed in:

  • Winston-Salem, North Carolina: the ordinance cites the Bostock decision to extend the city’s existing sex protections in housing to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

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