The Worst States for LGBTQ+ Safety
Unlike the states at the top of our list, many of those falling to the bottom have actively hostile laws targeting members of the queer community, and they often also have yet to pass laws banning things like anti-gay discrimination or conversion therapy. This abusive practice attempts to change an individual’s orientation.
Notably, all five of the bottom states are in the South. However, as explored in the next section, the anti-trans legislative wave in the U.S., which has picked up its pace in 2023, is not limited to Southern states.
#1: Mississippi – Safety Index Score: 0
Mississippi had the worst possible score in our ranking based on the presence of several anti-equality laws, including still having sodomy laws on the books, as well as criminalizing non-disclosure of HIV status. Like others at the bottom of this list, Mississippi also bars trans youth from sports and restricts discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in schools.
Balancing those factors against the few pro-equality measures the state has passed, which include laws regarding non-discrimination based on sexual orientation (but not gender identity) in adoption and foster care, it's easy to see why it ranks so poorly in our analysis.
In the first month of 2023 alone, state lawmakers in Mississippi introduced 31 anti-LGBTQ+ bills. Though not all of the bills will pass, they can still negatively impact people’s mental and physical health.
As you might expect, Mississippi is not a popular place for queer Americans to reside. There are fewer than 6,000 same-sex couple households, with a population-adjusted rate that’s just over half the national average, putting it 48th among the states and D.C. Only Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota are worse.
#2 Tennessee – Safety Index Score: 1
Tennessee just barely squeaked by without landing in the bottom spot, ranking just one point ahead of last-place Mississippi. And similarly to its neighbor to the south, Tennessee’s place on the list is primarily due to a near-total lack of pro-equality measures.
While Tennessee doesn’t still criminalize sodomy like Mississippi does, it has few laws that bar anti-gay discrimination and actively bars municipalities in the state from putting local ordinances in place to do so.
Like so many other states that performed poorly in our ranking, Tennessee lawmakers have also targeted trans youth, barring them from sports. In late May 2023, the state passed laws to legally define “sex” as an immutable biological characteristic, effectively eliminating trans identities in Tennessee. Other bills protect teachers
#3 Alabama – Safety Index Score: 9.3
Compared to Tennessee and Mississippi, Alabama has fewer openly discriminatory laws. However, like others near the bottom of this list, the state has rules that bar trans children from participating in sports. The state also restricts the discussion of certain LGBTQ+ topics in schools.
The state lacks anti-discrimination laws protecting queer individuals in most areas except for colleges and universities, and it permits anti-gay discrimination in adoption and foster placement. Alabama has recently enacted more legislation restricting LGBTQ+ residents, such as limiting transgender athletes’ participation in college sports, but many Alabamans have been pushing back with protests against restrictive laws.
#4 Louisiana – Safety Index Score: 9.3
Louisiana’s score is a fraction ahead of Alabama's mainly due to many anti-equality laws in the state. For example, the state restricts gestational surrogacy to straight, married couples only. It has both sodomy and HIV criminalization regulations. However, LGBTQ+ parents have some protections, including second-parent adoption.
Like many others at the bottom of this list, Louisiana does not have laws barring anti-gay discrimination in housing, employment, or education, and the state allows religious exemptions to protect those with anti-gay views.
Louisiana state lawmakers sent additional anti-LGBTQ+ legislation to their governor’s desk during the first week of Pride Month 2023: a copycat of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, and guidelines for pronoun usage in schools.
#5 Oklahoma – Safety Index Score: 9.9
Oklahoma’s place on the list is due mainly to the absence of many anti-equality measures that other low-ranking states have. However, the state permits anti-gay discrimination in adoption and foster placement and has laws against sodomy and non-disclosure of HIV status. Even more legislation has been considered and passed this year, such as a ban gender-affirming care for patients under age 18.
However, balancing the other side of the ledger are some protections for queer parents, including de facto parental recognition, granting some legal rights to otherwise non-legal parents.