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LGBT Rights

The ACLU's LGBT Project works for an America free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means an America where LGBT people can live openly, where identities, relationships and families are respected, and where there is fair treatment on the job, in schools, housing, public places, health care, and government programs. 

One Year After Marriage Equality in NC

Posted on in LGBT Rights

One year ago today, same-sex couples in North Carolina won the freedom to marry the person they love.

Many people contributed to that incredible victory. But the most important of all were the families who had the courage and conviction to serve as plaintiffs in the legal challenges the ACLU and others brought against North Carolina's discriminatory marriage ban.

Please join us in thanking the families who served as plaintiffs in our marriage lawsuits and helped expand freedom and equality for thousands of North Carolinians.


Victory Protecting Local LGBT Nondiscrimination Laws

Posted on in LGBT Rights

Earlier this week, under cover of night, and less than 48 hours away from the close of the nine month legislative session, members of the General Assembly attempted—once again—to sanction discrimination against LGBT North Carolinians.  A provision negotiated in secret by a group of appointed House and Senate members was inserted into SB 279, an unrelated bill on licensing requirements for counselors, and would have stripped local governments of their ability to pass ordinances protecting LGBT residents from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.  In the waning hours of the legislative session, the ACLU and our allies worked tirelessly to educate both members of the General Assembly and the public about the devastating discriminatory consequences of such a law.  A broad coalition that included civil rights groups, faith leaders, and local governments came together to stand up and fight—and today, we’re proud to tell you that we won!

The discriminatory provision was removed from the bill just after midnight last night sending the message loud and clear that the General Assembly has no business interfering in local decisions to enact anti-discrimination policies. To date, many communities across North Carolina—including  Buncombe, Durham, Mecklenburg, and Wake counties, and the cities of Asheville, Boone, Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Charlotte, High Point and Raleigh—have passed ordinances protecting LGBT residents from discrimination, with popular local support.  Wake County is the newest addition to this list, having just amended its employee non-discrimination provisions to include LGBT protections earlier this month.  We supported that effort, and will continue to support local efforts while pushing for statewide protections as well.

We must all remain vigilant in the face of any future attempts to codify intolerance, but today, we hope you join us in celebrating this victory!

RALEIGH – The Wake County Board of Commissioners today voted to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals to those protected by the county’s employment nondiscrimination policies. The measure, approved as part of a consent agenda, ensures that county employees cannot be discriminated against for their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

“We applaud the Wake County commissioners for joining the growing list of county and city governments that have expanded workplace protections in the interest of fairness and equality,” said Susanna Birdsong, Policy Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “Everyone deserves a fair chance at employment and advancement in the workplace, and no one should ever lose their job because of who they are or who they love. Employers know that part of attracting and retaining the best employees is offering a workplace that is fair, where qualified individuals are not discriminated against based on characteristics unrelated to the job.

The sad reality is, despite overwhelming public support for protecting LGBT workers in North Carolina, it is still legal to fire or refuse to hire someone because of their sexual orientation in much of our state. We urge the General Assembly and other local governments across the state to pass comprehensive employment protections for LGBT workers.”


Even after the U.S. Supreme Court's historic marriage equality ruling, many state laws still do not give adequate protections to LGBT families. In North Carolina, for example, married lesbian couples are fighting to be able to list both parents’ names on their children’s birth certificates.

Tell Governor Pat McCrory that it’s time to change the state’s outdated policy and make it easier for lesbian moms to both appear on their child’s birth certificate.

North Carolina already allows some married lesbian parents to both be listed on their children's birth certificates, just as the state allows a non-biological father to be listed on the birth certificate of a child born to his wife through donor insemination.


WASHINGTON –The U.S. Supreme Court today issued a sweeping and historic decision that affords gay and lesbian couples the same legal right to marry and recognition of their marriages as different-sex couples. The ruling invalidates discriminatory laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and as a practical matter, requires all 50 states to allow same-sex couples to marry.

“The Supreme Court today welcomed same-sex couples fully into the American family. Gay and lesbian couples and our families may be at peace knowing that our simple request to be treated like everyone else – that is, to be able to participate in the dignity of marriage – has finally been granted,” said James Esseks, director of the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and HIV Project. “Today’s historic victory comes on the backs of same-sex couples and advocates who have worked for decades to dismantle harmful stereotypes and unjust laws in the quest for equal treatment.”

The court’s 5-4 opinion holds that state marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution. Recognizing that “marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death,” the Court held that the Constitution grants to same-sex couples the right to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.”

"Today's decision has been 50 years in the making and will stand with Brown vs. Board of Education as one of the landmark civil rights moments of our time," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "Now we take the battle for full legal equality to the states, where 31 states have yet to pass any statewide LGBT non-discrimination laws.  The wind is at our backs, and we are now on the cusp of achieving full legal equality for LGBT Americans across the country."

The case is captioned Obergefell v. Hodges and is made up of cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  The American Civil Liberties Union represented plaintiffs in Kentucky casesBourke v. Beshear and Love v. Beshear and in Ohio case Obergefell, et al. v. Hodges with private firms.

North Carolina Background:

The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to North Carolina’s marriage ban in June 2013 when it amended a 2012 lawsuit seeking second parent adoption rights for six families headed by same-sex couples. The adoption lawsuit, Fisher-Borne, et al. v. Smith, was originally filed in June 2012, just weeks after passage of the state’s marriage ban, known as Amendment One, which the ACLU lobbied and campaigned against. In April 2014, the ACLU filed a second lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin, et al. v. Smith, challenging North Carolina’s marriage ban on behalf of three married same-sex couples, one member of which has a serious medical condition. In October 2014, U.S. District Judge William Osteen issued a ruling in both cases that declared North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples to be unconstitutional.