On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear three cases that seek to answer “whether federal employment discrimination laws, first passed by Congress in 1964, that bar discrimination ‘because of sex’ protect gay, lesbian, and transgender employees.”
First up are the cases of Donald Zarda and Gerald Bostock, two gay men who were fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation, which will be argued together. The third case involves Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from her job at a funeral home when she began dressing as a woman.
Recent PRRI data shows that most Americans falsely believe that there are federal nondiscrimination protections in place for LGBT Americans. A majority of Americans across ideologies, age, and religious affiliation in all 50 states also show broad support for LGBT nondiscrimination protections and for transgender rights.
Knowledge of Federal Nondiscrimination Laws for LGBT People
Although there are no federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBT individuals, PRRI’s survey “America’s Growing Support for Transgender Rights” demonstrates that a large majority of Americans falsely believe that there are protections in place. Clear majorities believe it is illegal at the federal level for a doctor or health care professional to refuse treatment (79%), for a business to fire or deny someone a job (67%), for a property owner to refuse to rent a house or apartment (60%), or for a business owner to refuse to provide products or services to someone (55%) because the individual is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
However, the proportion of Americans who correctly know that there are no federal nondiscrimination protections in place to prevent a business from firing or refusing to hire someone because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender has doubled over the last three years, from 14% in 2016 to 28% today.
Support for LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections
A 2018 PRRI survey finds that Americans are widely supportive of nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people. Nearly seven in ten (69%) favor laws that would protect them from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing.
Support has remained steady over the past few years with 70% of Americans reporting that they favor nondiscrimination provisions for LGBT people in 2017, compared to 72% in 2016, and 71% in 2015.
There is widespread bipartisan support for LGBT protections, with majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (70%), and Republicans (56%) in favor of protections. However, Republican support has fallen 5 percentage points over the past few years, from 61% in 2015.
Notably, this drop in Republican support is concentrated among those who showed the highest support a few years ago. Since 2015, support has declined around 10 points among young Republicans (ages 18-29) from 74% to 63%, and among liberal Republicans from 68% to 59%.
Solid majorities of all major religious groups support nondiscrimination protections, with the highest support from Unitarian Universalists (90%), Jews (80%), and the religiously unaffiliated (78%). Hispanic Catholics (72%), white Catholics (71%), white mainline Protestants (71%), Mormons (70%), and other religions (67%) show majority support as well. White evangelical Protestants (54%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (53%) are the least likely to support protections.
Support for Transgender Rights
PRRI’s June 2019 LGBT Survey shows that more than six in ten (62%) Americans say they have become more supportive toward transgender rights than they were 5 years ago, while only 25% say they have become more opposed.
About three-quarters (76%) of Democrats report they have become more supportive of transgender rights in the last five years, compared to 64% of independents and only 47% of Republicans. Increased support crosses ideological divides within the parties; conservative Republicans (40%) stand out as the only ideological group with less than half reporting increased support for transgender rights.
Majorities of every major religious group report becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years. Even among white evangelical Protestants, slightly more than half (52%) report becoming more supportive of transgender rights over the last five years.
 Unitarian Universalists have a total sample size of 97.