LGBTQ Agenda: Queer equality in US backsliding, biz report finds

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday June 18, 2024
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A view of Detroit graces the cover of Out Leadership's new 2024 "State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index" report. According to the survey, Michigan ranked No. 20 on the report, with a score of 78.07 points, up nearly five points from last year. Photo: Courtesy Out Leadership<br>
A view of Detroit graces the cover of Out Leadership's new 2024 "State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index" report. According to the survey, Michigan ranked No. 20 on the report, with a score of 78.07 points, up nearly five points from last year. Photo: Courtesy Out Leadership

An annual report on LGBTQ equality found that more states' legal, work, health, family support, and religious and political environments became less favorable over the past year. This marks the second consecutive year that has been the case, the report noted, calling it a "dangerous trend."

Out Leadership, a B-corp (a for-profit company certified by B Lab for is social impact) based in New York City (formerly Out in the Street), released this year's equality report — the "2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index" to coincide with Pride Month.

The report scores each state (termed a "business climate score") on a scale of 0 to 100 points in the categories of legal and non-discrimination protections; work environment and employment; health access and safety; youth and family support; and political and religious attitudes.

Each category includes criteria for scoring, including the presence of HIV non-discrimination laws and the ability for people to change their driver's license or birth certificate to correspond to their gender identity.

At 93.67 points, New York was the highest-scoring state. Rounding out the top 10 are Connecticut (93.27), Massachusetts (92), New Jersey (90), Vermont (89.50), Colorado (88.67), Maine (88.67), Illinois (88.47), Minnesota (88.33), and Oregon (87). California scored No. 11, with 86.67 points.

The bottom 10, in ascending order, are Arkansas (27), Louisiana (31.5), South Carolina (31.9), Oklahoma (33.3), Tennessee (34), South Dakota (34.8), Mississippi (35.2), Alabama (37.9), Kentucky (39.5), and Indiana (42.6).

"As we enter an election year, the political and cultural environment in the United States has become increasingly polarized with LGBTQ+-friendly states becoming increasingly inclusive while the worst states for equality become evermore hostile to equality and freedom," Todd G. Sears, a gay man who is the founder and CEO of Out Leadership, stated in the report's introduction. "For the second year in a row, the average Out Leadership LGBTQ+ Business Climate Score across has declined, and for the third year running more states have become less friendly to LGBTQ+ Americans — an incredibly dangerous trend."

That average score of all 50 states is 62.77, down from 63.48 last year.

Sears, a former investment banker, continued that "the United States economy thrives in a predictable business environment." He talked about the effects of people moving across the country for more supportive frameworks.

"But with each anti-LGBTQ+ policy, state leaders sacrifice concrete financial benefits for cheap political points," he stated. "These laws arbitrarily involve policymakers in the affairs of private enterprises, preventing managers from placing the best employees in the right roles and undermining both consumer and investor confidence."

He also specifically addressed queer youth issues.

"By targeting LGBTQ+ youth, these laws also impact families, forcing them to flee states (and leave their jobs) to keep their children safe," Sears stated. "By enacting these discriminatory laws, state leaders are choosing risk over stability and stagnation over prosperity — an attack on our freedom to raise families and build businesses without the fear of unnecessary government intervention in our lives and work."

Out Leadership didn't return the Bay Area Reporter's request for an interview.

Jorge Reyes Salinas, a gay man who is a spokesperson for Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, was asked by the B.A.R. about the Golden State — long a nationwide beacon for LGBTQ equality — being No. 11 on the list.

"Although California continues to be on top of the list of states with the most support and inclusivity, there are still opportunities to improve that we look forward to diving into with our partners," Reyes Salinas stated.

Nationwide, much of the backsliding is attributable to anti-trans legislation that has limited trans people's abilities to change their driver's licenses, birth certificates, use the bathroom of their choice, or participate in the athletic teams corresponding to their gender identities. Twenty-three states have banned medical treatments to align youth with their gender identities; 25 have banned trans women participating in female sports.

An effort to add a measure to this year's California ballot that would have banned trans minors from receiving gender-affirming care; banned trans girls from female competitive sports, locker rooms and bathrooms; and required public schools to disclose students' gender identities to parents if they say they are different than their sex at birth did not get enough signatures to qualify, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

"As the LGBTQ+ community continues to face an alarming rate of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks across the nation, it is imperative that our home states support us," Reyes Salinas stated. "For another year, the Out Leadership report demonstrates that states that excel in LGBTQ+ equality continue to thrive, and states that demonstrate hostility towards LGBTQ+ rights continue to jeopardize the LGBTQ+ community's ability to live and work."

California saw a slight uptick in its score from 2023 (from 86.5 to 86.67). Looking at the 2023 report shows the legal and non-discrimination and youth and family support scores increased slightly in 2024.

"California's comprehensive non-discrimination law protects LGBTQ+ people, so the state is already experiencing the positive economic impacts of such policies," the report states, adding that 5.3% of Californians self-identify as LGBTQ. "One estimate suggests that the state's economy may have grown 3%, or $83.9 billion, thanks to its inclusive approach. That said, there's still a gap between policy and culture, and organizations in California have a business imperative to ensure that LGBTQ+ people feel welcome in their workplaces."

North Carolina, which saw the biggest change in its score, moved down from 58.8 to 52.5. Last year, the state Legislature there overrode Governor Roy Cooper's (D) veto of three bills, which collectively banned gender-affirming care for minors, restricted discussion of gender identity in schools, and prohibited transgender athletes from competing in female sports in schools.

This year, the American Civil Liberties Union ( noted that 522 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures this year — already more than last year's record of 510.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

Due to an assignment, Pride, and the July 4 holiday, the LGBTQ Agenda column will return July 16.

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