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
Applicants can change gender markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses by filling out a request form. The state has strong comprehensive discrimination protections, including protections for employment and housing.
Conversion therapy for minors is illegal. Youths in foster care are covered by comprehensive discrimination protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
California has a Governor and U.S. Senators with long and consistent records of voting for LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion. There are currently no laws allowing for religious exemptions from civil rights law.
California recently modernized its HIV criminal laws bringing them in-line with current science and ending discriminatory HIV exceptionalism.* Under the new law, intentional transmission of HIV or other serious communicable disease to another person is a misdemeanor. The new law requires conduct involving a substantial risk of transmission and clarifies that “intention to transmit” HIV or any other serious communicable disease means that the individual did not take any practical means to prevent transmission, such as using a condom or being on treatment.” All medically necessary care must be covered by insurance in the state, which includes transgender healthcare.
13% of transgender employees in California report being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 22% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom not matching gender. 20% of LGBTQ+ individuals in California report food insecurity, while only 14% of non-LGBTQ+ individuals do so. Up to 23% of LGBTQ+ individuals in California report making less than $24,000 per year. 9% of LGBTQ+ individuals report unemployment in California, slightly higher than the non-LGBTQ+ rate (7%).
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 LGBTQ+ 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.
Overall, 52.5% of LGBTQ+ workers in the West are out at work. However, urbanicity has a big impact on whether LGBTQ+ workers feel comfortable sharing personal information at work (LGBTQ+ workers are 26% less likely to share when in rural areas vs 4% less likely to share in urban areas compared to national average). There is also a big impact when it comes to age and being open to managers, with older LGBTQ+ workers in this region being more likely to share with their managers than any other age group nationwide (52% more likely). West workers are also 14% more likely to report microaggressions at work which may be why LGBTQ+/Allies are also 15% more likely to say they want to work with companies that are more supportive of LGBTQ+ rights. Even though there are reports of microaggressions in the workplace, workers in this region were 35% less likely to say that the state’s leadership talked negatively about LGBTQ+ issues.
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 (LGBTQ+ and Non-LGBTQ+ 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 (LGBTQ+ vs Non-LGBTQ+).
States in the Western region included: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.
Legal Status of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Community
California has had discrimination protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity or expression since 2003. The California Civil Code provides that all people within the jurisdiction of the state are free and equal.
Both sexual orientation and gender identity are covered by hate crime laws.
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Youths in foster care are specifically protected from harassment and discrimination based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The law covers all aspects of foster care, including services, placement, care, treatment, and benefits, and the right to not be subjected to discrimination or harassment.
Schools are required to include LGBTQ+ history in social sciences curricula, and neither teachers nor school districts are allowed to sponsor any activity that promotes bias, including against sexual orientation.
Students can participate in team sports and use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The state Department of Aging considers LGBTQ+ identity as part of its decision matrix when evaluating senior citizens’ eligibility for programs and services.
California permits both single LGBTQ+ people and same-sex couples to adopt. A same-sex partner may also petition to adopt a partner’s child. Under SB 274, adopted in 2013, when one or two presumptive parents are out of the picture, a third person can step in to be a child’s official adopted parent.
Under current state law, same-sex parents cannot both be named on their child’s birth certificate if they are not married or registered as domestic partners.
California recently modernized its HIV criminal laws bringing them in-line with current science and ending discriminatory HIV exceptionalism. Under the new law, intentional transmission of HIV or other serious communicable disease to another person is a misdemeanor. The new law requires conduct involving a substantial risk of transmission and clarifies that “intention to transmit” HIV or any other serious communicable disease means that the individual did not take any practical means to prevent transmission, such as using a condom or being on treatment. All medically necessary care must be covered by insurance in the state, which includes transgender healthcare.
Conversion therapy is banned for minors.
Legal Status of the Transgender Community
Discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people is prohibited in virtually every area of life in California, including housing, employment, education, insurance, and public accommodations.
To update a birth certificate gender marker, applicants must simply fill out a request form. No physician input, surgery, or court involvement is required. If the applicant has already changed their legal name, they can change it on their birth certificate at the same time they amend the gender marker. This process is the same for people wishing to update the gender markers on a driver’s license or other state ID.
A non-binary gender marker is available on California birth certificates, driver licenses and identification cards.
Most gender-affirming care is covered under Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program. California’s Insurance Non-Discrimination Act of 2006 guarantees all people the right to access coverage for medically necessary care regardless of their gender identity or gender expression.
In 2015, California became the first state to pay for transgender prison inmates to receive gender confirmation surgery.
All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, public place or government agency must be identified as “all-gender”.
Businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies that serve the public cannot discriminate based on someone’s gender identity or gender expression. This includes stopping a person from using a restroom or other sex-segregated facility that matches the individual’s gender identity.
Government Statements and Actions
In May 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom presented a proposed education budget that included $3 million for the California Department of Education to develop a LGBTQ+ cultural competency training curriculum.
Caitlyn Jenner is running for governor of California as a Republican, but her candidacy is panned by LGBTQ activists, who point to her lack of awareness of LGBTQ policies and her conservative views, such as wanting to ban trans students from playing on teams aligned with their gender identities.
Openly gay State Senator Scott Wiener has introduced a host of LGBTQ+-affirmative bills the past couple sessions, including one that would mandate housing incarcerated transgender inmates according to their gender identity.
In 2014 California became the first state in the U.S. to officially ban the use of gay panic and transgender panic defenses in murder trials.
In 2019, California adopted AB 2504, requiring current police officers and students in law enforcement academies to receive training regarding sexual orientation and gender identity groups.
Former Governor Jerry Brown signed 12 pro-LGBTQ+ bills into law toward the end of his term that are taking effect in 2019 and 2020.
Current Governor Gavin Newsom flew the Pride Flag over the California state capitol for the entire month of June 2019 for the first time, directly flouting a Trump administration ban on flying such flags at U.S. embassies.
The Board diversity Bill AB979 was struck down in court in March 2022. This bill would have mandated at least 2 diverse board candidate in all CA based companies (LGBTQ+ was included in the definition of board diversity because of Out Leadership’s advocacy)
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 LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community
San Francisco is the U.S. city with the largest LGBTQ+ community – about 15% of San Franciscans identify as LGBTQ+.
There are at least 22 annual Pride festivals in cities around the state.
Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community
76% of Californians support nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.
60% of Californians oppose religious exemptions that allow for discrimination against LGBTQ+ people.