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
Georgia lacks any statewide nondiscrimination law whatsoever, meaning that many Georgians are vulnerable to discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as on the basis of gender, religion and ethnicity. Some municipalities have passed these protections, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, at the local level. It’s possible to change gender markers on a birth certificate or a driver’s license, but gender confirmation surgery is a prerequisite in a longer process involving court orders and physician notes.
The state does not ban conversion therapy. There are no overt restrictions on LGBT+ or second-parent adoptions, but there are no protections either. LGBT+ students do not have comprehensive nondiscrimination protections and are not protected against bullying. A second parent is recognized in the case of adoption or assisted reproduction if the individuals in the couple are married.
The state’s governor and both senators have demonstrated negative track records on LGBT+ rights in statements and voting records. Though the state currently lacks a “religious freedom” law, one is regularly proposed in the legislature, and Governor Brian Kemp ran on a campaign promise to pass such a law.
Georgia’s state Medicaid system specifically excludes transgender healthcare, and private insurers are allowed to do the same. There is no hate crime law covering sexual orientation or gender identity. Knowingly exposing someone to HIV is a felony.
12% of transgender employees in Georgia reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 34% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom that does not match their gender. 26% of LGBT+ individuals in Georgia reported food insecurity, compared to 17% of non-LGBT+ individuals. 26% of LGBT+ Georgians report making less than $24,000 per year.
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
Georgia lacks any statewide nondiscrimination law, meaning that Georgians are vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of sex, ethnicity, and religion, as well as on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, some have been passed at the local level.
Georgia does not have any comprehensive laws protecting state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
It is a felony in Georgia to knowingly expose someone to HIV without disclosure through sexual contact, needle sharing, sex work, or blood and tissue donation. If convicted, the act is punishable by up to a decade in prison.
Georgia does not have any laws which protect youth in foster care from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Georgia does not currently permit state agencies to decline prospective adoptive parents based on religious beliefs. In 2018, the Senate passed SB 375, which would have permitted adoption agencies to decline a referral for adoption or foster care services based on “the child-placing agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs,” but it died in the House.
Georgia has no laws banning or restricting the practice of conversion therapy. A bill to ban it was introduced in the state house in the 2019 session but remains in limbo.
Legal status of the Transgender Community
Although Georgia currently does not provide statutory protections based on gender identity, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (which covers Georgia) ruled in 2011 that if a government agent fires a trans employee because of their gender non-conformity, that action violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause prohibition on sex-based discrimination.
Georgia permits changing the gender markers on a birth certificate for individuals born within the state. In order to obtain an amended birth certificate, an individual must undergo gender confirmation surgery, petition the court to apply for a name change and gender change, and submit a certified physician’s letter attesting to the fact that the individual has undergone the surgery. No therapist letter is required. Once the individual has obtained a “court order indicating the sex of an individual born in this state has been changed by surgical procedure and that such individual’s name has been changed,” the individual may apply to the Georgia Office of Vital Records to receive an amended birth certificate.
To update the gender marker on a Georgia driver’s license or ID, an individual must submit either a court order or physician’s letter certifying that the individual has had gender confirmation surgery. The court order or physician’s letter must state the person’s name, date of birth, date of operation and other identifying information. Neither a name change nor a therapist letter is required.
Georgia’s State Medicaid policy explicitly excludes transgender health coverage and care, prohibiting coverage for, among other things, gender confirmation surgeries, hysterectomies, sterilizations, and cosmetic surgery or mammoplasties for aesthetic purpose. The policy does not appear to explicitly include or exclude hormone treatment, but drugs or procedures which are not recognized by the federal government as acceptable, standard treatment are generally excluded from coverage.
Government statements and actions
Georgia’s current criminal code does not provide any hate crime protections, although the state legislature considered bills that would extend such protections.
Governor Brian Kemp appointed a noted anti-LGBT+ activist to his transition team, alongside a gay Republican who has long opposed anti-LGBT+ religious freedom policies.
In 2019, the state legislature rejected SB 221, which continued an ongoing policy debate in the state: whether it should have its own version of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Some religious Georgians say it protects their freedom of speech, while LGBT+ activists say it gives people to right to discriminate against them.
Former governor Nathan Deal vetoed a state-based RFRA bill three years ago after large corporations threatened to boycott the state.
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
October 2020 will mark Atlanta’s 50th pride celebration, currently the largest pride parade in the southeast.
The Georgia Voice describes Atlanta as “arguably the hub of black LGBTQ life in America.” According to the Williams Institute, 4.5% of the state’s residents identify as LGBT+. However, that large LGBT+ population remains very racially segregated.
First City Network in Savannah is the state’s oldest LGBT+ organization.
The small bible-belt town of Blue Ridge has famously become revitalized by an influx of LGBT+ people and businesses.
Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community
When Vice President Mike Pence went to Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day in 2018, the city “welcomed” him by festooning the parade route with rainbow flags.