Safe Spaces

These are the best and worst states for queer rights

2023 was a record year for anti-LGBTQ+ legislation — with laws particularly focused on curtailing the rights of trans minors. The HRC has now issued a report that illustrates the enduring national divide over queer acceptance. While many state legislatures have stoked the flames of an anti-trans hysteria, the report reveals glimmers of progress in some less welcoming states.

By the HRC’s count, 2023 saw more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills advanced in 43 states, with over 80 being signed into law. The HRC’s 2023 State Equality Index tracks such legislation as a baseline for the status of queer rights across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Each state is given a scorecard based on their legal protections (or the lack thereof) for the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender healthcare rights, legal recognition, equal employment and housing, anti-conversion therapy laws, hate crime protections, among others.

23 states scored the lowest, many of which made headlines over the last year for legislative attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. These were Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, Montana, Kentucky, Nebraska, Alabama, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Idaho, Wyoming, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Georgia, and West Virginia.

2 states — Utah and Arizona — scored second-lowest and 5 — Alaska, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Pennsylvania — scored second highest.

The remaining 20 states (and DC) scored highest on LGBTQ+ protections, including California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Virginia.

While many states ramped up their efforts to demonize the LGBTQ+ community — through book bans, “Don’t Say Gay” laws, and restrictions on healthcare and sports participation for trans youth — some states had actually improved their track record.

In the previous year’s report, Michigan had landed in the lowest-scoring category. Their score improved after multiple pro-LGBTQ+ laws passed when Democrats took over the legislature. Similarly, Arizona moved up after its Democrat governor vetoed anti-LGTBQ+ bills and issued an executive order protecting queer government workers.

“Last year was the most damaging and destructive legislative session we have ever seen for the LGBTQ+ community – particularly transgender youth. This year, sadly, we expect more of the same,” HRC President Kelley Robinson said in a press release. “But these attacks are out of touch with the American people – and they are a losing political strategy. We are the majority, and we will not stop until we are setting new records in support of LGBTQ+ people in every corner of the country.”

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