Out Leadership’s Business Climate Index for the 50 United States is an assessment of states’ performance on LGBTQ+ inclusion. It measures the impact government policies and prevalent attitudes have on the LGBTQ+ people residing in each state, quantifying the economic imperatives for inclusion and the costs of discrimination. It equips business leaders and policymakers with a clear sense of the most impactful steps states can take to make themselves more hospitable to forward-thinking, innovative, inclusive businesses.
out of a possible 100 points
The state lacks nondiscrimination or hate crimes protections for LGBT+ people. Changing gender markers on driver’s licenses and birth certificates both require gender affirmation surgery. Two of the 20+ murders of black transgender women in 2019 took place in Alabama.
The state has no ban on conversion therapy. Children in foster care are not protected on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Adoption agencies that eschew federal funding can discriminate against potential LGBT+ parents on religious grounds. The state is also one of six states where “No Promo Homo” laws, which prohibit or limit the mention or discussion of homosexuality and transgender identity in public schools, are still approved.
The state doesn’t have a standalone religious exemption law, but there is a “religious freedom amendment” to the state’s constitution. Alabama has one democratic U.S. Senator and one republican one, and their records on LGBT+ rights fall along party lines. The governor upholds existing protections but doesn’t champion strengthening them.
Neither Medicaid nor state employee insurance have explicit language mandating trans-inclusive coverage. Knowingly transmitting HIV can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.*
11% of transgender employees in Alabama reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity and 18% report mistreatment such as being forced to use the wrong bathroom at work. 25% of LGBT+ individuals in Alabama report food insecurity, compared to 20% of their non-LGBT+ peers (20%). A high percentage (37%) of LGBT+ individuals in Alabama report making less than $24,000 per year. 8% of LGBT+ individuals report unemployment in Alabama, compared to 6% of the non-LGBT+ population.
Download this report to learn how and why Out Leadership created the LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for the 50 U.S. States, with important details about our methodology, including our data standards and practices. NOTE: *HIV criminalization laws are discriminatory and ineffective. These laws fail to account for advances made in treating and controlling HIV, may deter people from getting tested and seeking treatment, and can exacerbate the stigma targeting people living with HIV and LGBTQ+ people.Our Methodology
The legal and cultural situation for LGBTQ+ people varies widely across the country. This map, based on each state's total Business Climate Score, illustrates the states where LGBTQ+ people are empowered to participate more fully and openly in the economy, and the states that are lagging behind.
Our partnerships make our work possible. The first State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index released in 2019 was funded by a grant from the Gill Foundation. The Index is based on data graciously shared by the Movement Advancement Project and the Williams Institute. Ropes & Gray is our pro bono legal partner for the CEO Business Briefs globally, and their research informs this Index. FCB partnered with us to conduct original market research into American attitudes toward LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion, informing the Regional Context section of the State CEO Briefs. America Competes supported the development of the scoring for the Risk Assessments, particularly for the Future Risk score.
Out Leadership and FCB partnered on original market research into the attitudes of American workers on LGBT+ inclusion, which fielded in 2019 and 2020. These briefs as a whole will be updated on an ongoing basis by Out Leadership because we recognize the ever-changing nature of policy on the local, state, and national level.
LGBT+ workers in the Southeast are the most likely to be out at work (54.4%), but they are also 25% more likely to feel that covering behaviors are important for workplace success. More broadly, non LGBT+ workers in this region preferred for businesses to demonstrate their support for the LGBT+ community using internal initiatives (like hiring more LGBT employees and creating more inclusive HR policies). However, this group was 57% less likely to approve of more public demonstrations of support (like withdrawing sponsorship from sporting events in less inclusive areas). LGBT+ workers in this region are 39% more likely to support inclusive businesses and 17% more likely to consider LGBT+ friendliness in making spending decisions compared to the non-LGBT workers nationwide. However, there is a perception that state leadership speaks about the LGBT+ community in a more negative way (39% more likely than nationwide), which could partially explain why LGBT+ workers in the Southeast are 19% more likely to say that they would be open to moving to a state with better LGBT+ support.
Unless otherwise noted, all comparisons for more or less likely are compared to the National results. Regional results are based off of 1,500 respondents (LGBT+ and Non-LGBT+ responses have been weighted to be age-representative for each audience in each region). National results are based off of 600 respondents representative of each audience (LGBT+ vs Non-LGBT+).
States in the Southeast region included: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Legal status of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community
The state’s nondiscrimination laws don’t extend to sexual orientation or gender identity, but two cities – Birmingham and Montevallo – offer those protections. Mobile is entertaining a proposal to become the third.
State employees are not protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
There are no explicit legal protections for youths in foster care on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Adoption agencies that don’t receive state or federal funding can use religious belief as a basis for declining prospective parents.
Same-sex adoptive parents can both be listed on a child’s birth certificate. The law is nebulous on whether same-sex couples with biological children also have this right: the “mother” on the state’s birth certificate form is whoever birthed the child, and the other parental blank says “husband.”
The state is one of five states where “No Promo Homo” laws, which prohibit or limit the mention or discussion of homosexuality and transgender identity in public schools, are still approved.
The Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment was passed in 1998 as a state constitutional amendment.
HIV positive people who do anything that either transmits or could transmit, the virus can be charged with a misdemeanor.
The state’s hate crimes laws have no protections or provisions for sexual orientation or gender identity.
Legal Status of the Transgender Community
It’s possible to amend the gender marker on a birth certificate, but it requires gender confirmation surgery, court approval, and a name change.
People can amend gender markers on a driver’s license by submitting either an amended birth certificate or a document signed by a surgeon certifying that the applicant has completed gender affirmation surgery.
There are no explicit policies either mandating that Medicaid cover transgender-related healthcare or ensuring that private insurers do so.
Government Statements and Actions
In February 2020, two state legislative committees approved a bill that would ban transgender minors from accessing hormone therapies. It passed in the state senate in early March 2020.
There is a bill making its way through the state legislature that would force transgender students to play on sports teams that correspond with their biological sex rather than their gender identity.
In June 2019, the Mobile County Treasurer, Phil Benson, made a derogatory remark about LGBT+ people on Facebook, using the language “freaking queers.” When challenged about his word choice and sentiment, he doubled down. In response, LGBT+ advocates spoke out, and City Council members voiced support for the LGBTQ community while agreeing to investigate the restoration of a commission focused on discrimination. Benson apologized on June 24 on his personal Facebook page, which cannot be viewed by the general public. He was subsequently stripped of a portion of his duties.
In June 2019, Mayor Mark Chambers of Carbon Hill, a 2,000-person town in Northwest Alabama, posted a homophobic screed on Facebook that was later deleted. He apologized but refused to resign, and two town council members resigned in protest.
After a gay, black teenager died by suicide in Huntsville in April 2019, Madison County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Graves left several homophobic comments on a local news outlet’s Facebook page. The comments responded to a post there linking to a story on Huntsville residents speaking out against LGBT+ bullying. Graves resigned under pressure but quickly found an officer job in another town.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a long-time anti-LGBT+ politician, is a front-runner to reclaim his Senate seat from Democrat Doug Jones, seated after a special election when Sessions left to join the Trump administration.
For more context around these scores, and to learn more about the criteria we used to assess how state laws, actions and attitudes toward LGBTQ+ people create business and talent risks, please visit www.outleadership.com/staterisk.
Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community
Birmingham has an annual LGBT+ black pride event, founded in 2018.
Central Alabama Pride, based in Birmingham, celebrated its 41st anniversary in 2019.
There’s growing grassroots support and organizing in the state and in 2018 several cities and towns hosted their first-ever Pride events, including Auburn and Opelika.
Other organization supporting and advancing LGBT+ work include Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Equality Alabama and TAKE – Transgender Advocates Knowledgeable Empowering.
BIRMINGHAM AIDS OUTREACH (BAO) was the first nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to providing HIV/AIDS prevention education and services for persons/families living with HIV/AIDS in the state of Alabama. All HIV programs at BAO are offered free of charge and include food bank, nutritional supplements and food vouchers, legal services, clothes and household items closet, medical assistance, counseling and support groups, among multiple other services.
In April 2014, BAO opened a LGBTQ youth center, the Magic City Acceptance Center (MCAC), a youth LGBTQ center offering all programs free of charge that include legal clinic, name change clinic, HIV/STD/STI testing and education, etc.
In January 2016, BAO opened the Magic City Wellness Center (MCWC), a LGBTQ medical facility providing general medicine, a PrEP/PeP clinic, hormone replace therapy (HRT), free counseling and support groups, trans support group, etc.
In August 2019, BAO started the LGBTQ free legal program.
BAO will open the Magic City Acceptance Academy (MCAA) August 2021, Alabama’s first and only LGBTQ affirming charter school.
Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community
In March 2020, the Alabama-based Foundation for Moral Law, a conservative advocacy organization founded by disgraced former State Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn Obergefell v Hodges.
64% of Alabamians support employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBT+ people.
49% of Alabamians oppose allowing small businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people on religious grounds.
Alabama is the only state in the nation where a majority of residents oppose same-sex marriage.
Alabama is the only state in the nation in which local marriage offices opted to cease offering marriage licenses to anyone rather than serving same-sex couples. A bill passed by the state house in 2019 would end the marriage license requirement as a workaround in favor of same-sex couples.