View of American gay liberation activist Marsha P Johnson (1945 – 1992) (left) during the Pride March (later the LGBT Pride March), New York, June 29, 1975. (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/MUUS Collection via Getty Images)

History isn’t something you look back at and say it was inevitable. It happens because people make decisions that are sometimes very impulsive and of the moment, but those moments are cumulative realities.”  
Marsha P. Johnson, LGBTQIA+ Rights Activist and Drag Queen 







LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer/Intersex/Asexual) rights are one of NOW’s six core issues. NOW is dedicated to combating discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in all areas, including employment, housing, public accommodations, health services, child custody and military policies. We assert the rights of all LGBTQIA+ individuals to live their lives with dignity, security, and marriage equality for all. NOW advocates for all women, including trans women, to have equitable treatment in the courts, in the workforce, in healthcare, and in our communities. 

Watch the video below to understand why.

Celebrating progress 

Through decades of hard work by millions of activists, we have witnessed history with the Supreme Court recognizing that consensual adult sexual conduct is constitutionally protected and that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.  In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII, which bars sex discrimination in employment, extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well.  

In 2022, the NOW-supported and much-heralded Respect for Marriage became law, providing federal protections for same-sex marriages. This new law gave clarity and peace of mind to millions of families by repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, which threatened LGBTQIA+ unions.

We’ve seen cultural advances too with Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg making history as the first openly gay Cabinet member and the confirmation of Rachel Levine for assistant secretary of health, the first openly transgender federal official. We also applauded the Rainbow Wave 2020 election cycle, with a record number of LGBTQIA+ candidates running and winning their elections, including many who were NOW PAC endorsed. 

While we celebrate each win, we know that well-funded and dangerous extremists want to push back all of this hard-won progress. Hateful laws targeting students’ gender identity abound at the state level, with some even amending their constitutions to limit rights and protections for LGBTQIA+ people, particularly transgender youth.  

Additionally, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which removed constitutional protections for abortion care, also threatens the constitutional basis for LGBTQIA+ rights. Justice Clarence Thomas, in his concurrence in the Dobbs case, explicitly urged the Court to revisit such cases. Read more about our push for Constitutional Equality and how it can impact LGBTQIA+ rights.  

NOW’s LGBTQIA+ Priorities  

Passing The Equality Act  

LGBTQIA+ people face discrimination in many areas of their lives and often have no legal recourse since there is no federal law prohibiting such discrimination. NOW has been a long-time supporter of the Equality Act, which would provide much-needed civil rights protections for LGBTQIA+ people and families.   

The Act would incorporate, in federal statutes, critical civil rights provisions that would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQIA+ persons in employment, housing, credit, education, theaters, restaurants, hotels, libraries, retail stores, federally funded programs, jury service, and other areas of public accommodation. In 29 states, Americans can still be evicted from their homes, denied service in a restaurant or a wedding cake in a bakery, or be turned down for a loan because of their gender identity.   
Polls show support for the Equality Act at more than 70 percent, yet for too many years now it has been blocked by anti-equality forces in Congress.  It’s long past time for Congress to pass the Equality Act. 

Ending attacks on transgender athletes 

NOW opposes any legislation that seeks to limit the rights of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex people, including the right to participate in school athletics.  In 2023, the House passed the deceptively named Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act,  which would have banned transgender athletes from women’s and girls’ sports at federally funded schools and educational institutions. 

The real threat to female athletics does not come from transgender athletes playing the sports they love with the gender they identify with.  It comes by way of discriminatory barriers, including sexual harassment and abuse, inadequate funding, second-class treatment in facilities, travel and equipment, and equal pay for women athletes. Additionally, we need to open more opportunities for women and girl athletes of color, who are disproportionately impacted by these disparities 

President Biden is committed to vetoing such legislation if it were to move forward, but the threat of it still looms whenever anti-progress forces control Congress. 

Enforcing Title IX’s protections  

Title IX ensures that all students have equal access to educational opportunities, regardless of gender, including the rights of transgender and intersex students to equally access school sports programs and facilities.  

Unfortunately, over two years in 2020-2022, 15 states passed laws banning transgender and intersex students from participating in school sports. These types of regressive attacks segregate and marginalize transgender athletes and set us backward in achieving full equity in sports.  

Standing up against hate crimes 

NOW stands firmly with the LGBTQIA+ community in light of the recent horrific acts of gun violence and other violent attacks and hate crimes. We must strengthen protections for the LGBTQIA+ community and call on law enforcement to address the rise in unconscionable hate crimes. And we join in President Biden’s renewed call for an assault weapon ban to address the epidemic of gun violence and save lives. 

Stopping state-sponsored hate 

Unfortunately, the list of states rushing to enact laws designed to discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people grows nearly daily. According to the ACLU, there are currently 491 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills around the country in the 2023 legislative session. These include Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, gender-affirming care bans, and suppressing drag as an art form.  
The Human Rights Campaign notes that laws targeting medical care for trans youth are already signed into law in South Dakota and Utah and that Tennessee enacted bathroom bans, bans on transgender athletes from playing school sports, curriculum censorship, and many more extreme measures 

With all the myriad issues facing our communities that should be addressed by local lawmakers, it is unacceptable that state legislators continue to spend time, energy and taxpayer money on limiting the rights and opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community for the sole purpose of stirring up political fervor and hate. 

See our Take Action Checklist below to see how you can stand up LGBTQIA+ rights today.  

NOW’s History of LGBTQIA+ Advocacy

Until all of us are equal, none of us are equal. The rollback of LGBTQIA+ rights and extremist politicians’ vile treatment of the transgender community are unacceptable and must be stopped through legislative actions and accountability at the ballot box.  
It is with immeasurable pride that NOW celebrates the many courageous activists whose accomplishments shaped our world for the better. We will continue to stand with the LGBTQIA+ community through every challenge, and celebrate every victory until we truly have equality for all. 

Take Action Checklist  

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