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Colorado has moved into the roster of the top five states in the United States for LGBTQ+ equality.

The group known as Out Leadership has been publishing the State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for five years and this year the nation’s overall average score on LGBTQ+ equality dropped -1.14 points.  The net negative rating for the country is largely due to the more than 500 anti-equality bills that have been introduced at the state level this legislative cycle.

But the good news is, that in the 2023 Index, Colorado has moved up five places in the survey, to take the number five spot in the nation for LGBTQ+ equality. The state earned a total score of 88.67 out of 100, compared to 86.33 with a rank of #10 in 2022.

“This year Colorado made significant progress, earning the state a slot in the top five states for LGBTQ+ equality,” said Founder and CEO of Out Leadership Todd Sears. “The 2.34 point increase in Colorado’s LGBTQ+ equality ranking stands out from the national average, which for the first time in the index’s history saw an overall net negative for all 50 states.”

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Top five  states for LGBTQ+ equality:

  1. New York – 93.67
  2. Connecticut – 93.27
  3. Massachusetts – 92.67
  4. New Jersey – 90.00
  5. Colorado – 88.67

By contrast, the worst five states for LGBTQ+ equality, include:

46. South Dakota – 34.97

47. Tennessee – 34.40

48. Louisiana – 33.50

49. South Carolina – 32.50

50. Arkansas – 32.00

The full index can also be viewed here.

“As greater numbers of multinational companies continue to shift away from U.S.-based operations, the business impact of this year’s index points to a harmful effect for the nation’s economy and job market,” said Sears, adding, “Companies simply don’t want to be at odds with the business policies and practices of the state they operate in, and they certainly don’t want to feel attacked by them.”

“While the top-ranked states for LGBTQ+ equality broadly are staying strong, the bottom-ranked states decreased in score significantly.  This continues to signal increasing polarization across the country in political and cultural attitudes toward the LGBTQ+ community,” said Brian Sims, Managing Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs for Out Leadership.

“The economic outlook of anti-equality states is being imperiled by politicians more interested in scoring political points than protecting the future livelihoods of citizens,” said Sears.

Key Data Points from the 2023 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index

While Colorado has focused on equality, other states have not. The survey provides this snapshot of the situation outside the state of Colorado:

  • More than half of the over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bill proposed in state legislatures this cycle were targeting the transgender community.
  • The largest changes in scores between 2022-2023 were driven by Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections, Youth and Family Support, and Political and Religious Attitudes. States with the largest score increases, such as West Virginia, North Carolina, and Colorado, adopted pro-LGBTQ+ laws and protections across a diverse range of policy areas.
  • This year’s Index reveals the impact of recent anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in states such as Florida, Arkansas, Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky.
  • Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, amongst other anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation, caused the state to fall 2.83 points since 2022 and a 6.23 point decrease since 2021 – a major drop in the rankings. The infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill has instigated similar bills across the United States, resulting in point decreases across the board.
  • The continuous focus on limiting trans rights and access is also a major driver of scores decreasing.
  • Key drivers in anti-LGBTQ+ equality state legislative proposals fall along several areas, including:
    • Healthcare bills focusing on gender affirming care.
    • Censorship laws like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
    • Legislation limiting the rights and access of trans youth and adults.
    • Changes in state leadership from pro-LGBTQ+ leaders to anti-LGBTQ+ leaders (2022 elections of new senators and governors).
  • New York is the highest-ranking state in LGBTQ+ equality for a third year in a row, scoring 93.67 out of 100 points.
  • Arkansas is the lowest-ranking state in LGBTQ+ equality for the first year, passing South Carolina with a score of 32.00 out of 100 points.
  • The highest mover was West Virginia, with an increase of 5.47 points between 2022 and 2023. This was due to the broad implementation of pro-LGBTQ+ policies (particularly benefitting the trans community) across legal and nondiscrimination protection, youth and family support, and health access and safety.