As the White House prepares to issue an executive order that would bar federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, polls show that many Americans believe it’s already illegal to fire someone for being gay. In most states, it is not. A bill that would have offered lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees federal protections—the Employment Non-Discrimination Act—passed the Senate last year, but it looks dead in the House.
So let’s say a gay person just came out to his boss—and got fired because of it. Is that legal? It depends.