Jun 6, 2022 - Economy & Business

Best and worst states for LGBTQ+ equality

Data: Out Leadership; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

A new report evaluates the business climate for LGTBQ+ people across the U.S., aiming to help leaders make equitable decisions about where to operate — in an increasingly polarizing country.

Why it matters: Doing business in a state that's hostile to LGBTQ+ rights can be costly. Disney learned this lesson earlier this year, after Florida passed what came to be known as the Don't Say Gay Bill and the company became embroiled in a big PR dustup.

  • Disney found itself caught between its Florida employees — many angered by the bill — and its relationship with the state government.
  • Bigger picture, companies may have trouble attracting employees in regions that are openly hostile to LGBTQ+ rights — especially at a time when there's heightened competition for talent among employers.
  • "LGBTQ friendly environments are business-friendly environments," said Todd Sears, a former investment banker, who founded Out Leadership, which launched this report four years ago.

Details: To arrive at the business climate scores, they looked at data across a few categories, including:

  • State laws that impact LGBTQ+ people, like protections in housing, the workplace and foster care.
  • Religious exemption laws that might allow businesses to discriminate against people.
  • The relative difficulty transgender people face in changing gender markers on official documents.
  • The index also considers work environment and employment, looking at incidences of harassment, assault, mistreatment and the overall employment rates and incomes of LGBTQ+ workers.

State of play: The report finds ever widening differences between the best and worst states. The good are getting better; and the less friendly are passing more anti-LGTBQ+ laws.

  • Michigan saw a 7.5 point increase in its score on the index from last year because of new workplace anti-discrimination laws meant to protect workers' rights.
  • Montana saw the biggest decrease, from 30th place in 2021 to 41st. Last year, the state passed a few LGBTQ+ hostile laws, including one banning schools from teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity without parental consent, and another banning transgender athletes from playing on teams that align with their gender identity.

What's next: Expect more tension between businesses and local governments to come; at least 20 states are looking at passing laws similar to Florida's.

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