Where Is It Safest to Be Gay? Ranking the States

12 May

Come for the scenery, stay for the civil rights

Despite President Obama’s wonderful declaration of support for marriage equality, the devastating passage of Amendment One in North Carolina shows how far we have to go as a nation. It is also imporant to understand how your rights are protected based on where you live. Now there’s a handy tool to look at gay rights by state.

In a very thorough analysis this week, British news daily The Guardian, published a ranking of all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) on seven key areas of civil rights. The factors rated by The Guardian include:

  1. Marriage, indicating whether it is fully allowed or banned and including partial credit for domestic partnerships.
  2. Hospital visitation rights, including how same-sex partners are respected as family members.
  3. Adoption rights, indicating whether LGBT couples can jointly adopt (or are explicitly banned from doing so).
  4. Employment, indicating what workplace protections exist based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  5. Housing, indicating laws requiring fair treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  6. Hate crimes, indicating laws providing for harsher punishment of crimes motivated by the victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
  7. Schools, indicating laws that protect students based on sexual orientation and gender identity and any explicit anti-LGBT bullying provision.

The analysis also compares states by region. Generally speaking, the Northeast has the strongest, most consistent protections (including three states with perfect scores – CT, MA, and VT) and the Southeast has the weakest (followed closely by the Midwest). Using a distinctly British approach to the regions, The Guardian identifies six Northwest states (OR, WA, ID, AK, MT, and WY). Washington received a perfect score; Oregon fell short on marriage equality but was otherwise perfect, ranking in the top 10. Only Oregon and Washington meet any of the categories other than some school protections. It’s also nice to know that many elected officials in Oregon responded positively to the President’s announcement on Wednesday.

Of course day-to-day safety and success for LGBT Americans varies based on more than the state or region in which one lives. Metropolitan areas are generally safer and more accepting than more rural areas, regardless of the state. But knowing how a region demonstrates its support (or hostility) to gay rights is an important factor in daily life.

12 Responses to “Where Is It Safest to Be Gay? Ranking the States”

  1. newsofthetimes May 12, 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Great resource! Thanks for posting!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 12, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Thanks. My hope is that the LGBT community will use it as a resource.

      • newsofthetimes May 12, 2012 at 9:40 am #

        It’s sad that this is necessary, but since it still is, this is a good resource to share.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 12, 2012 at 9:42 am #

        Yes. People in the LGBTQ community have to constantly think about safety and legal protection. I’m fortunate to live in Oregon where my husband and I enjoy a great deal of legal protection.

  2. Jay May 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    The Guardian is my go-to source for straight news (no pun intended). Only the NY Times is their equal or better in the English language, in my opinion, and as the Times is now only allowing ten free articles per month to non-subscribers, I tend to hoard those page-views like a paranoid squirrel hoards nuts.

    I was tempted to forward you this resource, but didn’t bother, and am pleased to find further evidence that great minds do tend to think alike. (As emoticons are kind of tacky, I’ll add a parenthetical “wink” to temper my blatant self-congratulation).

    Most dismaying to me is the large number of states that offer virtually no protections for LGBT individuals, and that gender identity protections are even rarer than sexual orientation protections. Also surprising, in a bad way, was the prevalence of state Constitutional bans on marriage equality–I knew North Carolina was joining their neighbors with their recent vote, but in fact they were joining virtually every state that does not already grant marriage equality to same sex couples.

    Barring a major, and unlikely, Supreme Court decision, the battle for legal equality for LGBT individuals and couples is going to continue for many years on a state-by-state basis.

    One hopeful sign was President Obama’s decision to announce his support for marriage equality. Your post on the topic was touching. I think from now on, it will be standard for Democratic Presidents and nominees to favor full civil equality for gays and lesbians–but I wasn’t expecting the current President to make that explicit until after this year’s election.

    • Robert Hulshof-Schmidt May 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

      Thanks, Jay. It is nice to see our minds still turning in the same circles. It was too good a resource not to share. Even with our fairly heightened awareness in this household, I too was shocked to see so many virtually empty wedges on the equality wheel.

      The state-by-state approach is clearly deeply flawed. (Parenthetical frowny face) I agree that we’re unlikely to see much Federal change with this court. The Respect for Marriage act is a good start, but it won’t go anywhere without filibuster reform, holding the Senate, and re-taking the House. That’s a pretty tall order. Starting with the surprising (for its timing, anyway) bold statement from President Obama, however, feels really good.

  3. nevercontrary May 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm #

    I personally loved the colorful charts even if I live in a “scary” place. Maybe one day I will live in a colorful state, but I am just so torn about leaving all of my extended family. I want to tell the crazies in my state this is my home please leave.

  4. Jay May 12, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

    Sorry, Robert–I hadn’t noted that this article was yours. It was Michael, of course, who made the touching post in response to the President’s recent announcement. I know you and Michael are close, but that’s no reason to fail to draw a distinction between you two.

    Battling state-by-state does sound worthy of a frowny-face, and I agree the confluence of factors necessary to pass The Respect for Marriage Act is slim. A more likely Deus ex Machina possibility, it seems to me, is a Brown-style ruling from the Supreme Court. Lawrence v. Texas was decided 6-3, and marriage equality and/or a decision affirming ENDA-style protections strike me as just within the realm of reasonable possibility from the current Court. The right case would need to make the docket, of course, but I think that’s more likely than the Senate changing their cloture rules.

    Forgive my quibbling about which long-shot is less unlikely. Thanks again for the article, and best wishes, as always.

  5. jenny May 13, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    i am dismayed at the colorless state of ohio. 😦

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt May 13, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

      I fear I am rather disgusted with Ohio. It looks like John Boehner is reflecting the morally corrupt politics of his state. We may have to come and rescue you, Jenny!


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