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LGBT Rights

Our work on LGBT issues spans decades – from an early case challenging the military’s anti-gay policy, Hoffburg v. Alexander, to the monitoring of anti-LGBT hate and extremist groups today. The SPLC is dedicated to defending the rights of the LGBT community. Our current work has a national reach but is primarily focused on the Southeast where relatively few organizations advocate for this community.

Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris are legally married, but the Department of Veterans Affairs denied Tracey's application for additional compensation to which other married veterans are entitled. (Valerie Downes photo)

Ensuring safe schools is a particular concern. The bullying of LGBT students is a severe, nationwide problem – one made more difficult by the reluctance of many school districts to take strong steps to prevent it. Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT students have experienced harassment, a survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found. Also, a Southern Poverty Law Center analysis of FBI hate crime data found that LGBT people are far more likely to be victims of a violent hate crime than any other minority group in the United States.

The SPLC has worked to ensure safe schools for all students – including LGBT students – through educational campaigns and legal action. Our Teaching Tolerance program released the anti-bullying documentary Bullied in 2010. The free documentary and teaching kit, designed for both classroom use and professional development for educators, tells the story of one student’s landmark effort to stand up to his anti-gay tormentors.

More than 50,000 copies of the film have been distributed across the country – making Bullied the most successful film ever produced by Teaching Tolerance at that time and helping to raise awareness of this serious issue facing LGBT youth.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has also taken legal action to protect LGBT students. This includes litigation against school policy that creates an atmosphere hostile to LGBT students or otherwise isolates these students for harassment. Anti-LGBT policies and actions that infringe on the free expression and privacy rights of LGBT students are another focus of this work. Outside the classroom, the Southern Poverty Law Center focuses on the treatment of LGBT youth in juvenile and foster care facilities.

Other efforts focus on the rights of LGBT adults, including issues involving parenting rights and the treatment of LGBT seniors in nursing homes and other facilities.