LGBTQ+ Business Climate Score

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

Legal & Nondiscrimination Protection

State law provides nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Trans people can change gender markers on both birth certificates and driver’s licenses, but it is an onerous process: people must amend their birth certificates before amending the driver’s license, and they must show medical evidence that gender markers have been changed, by surgery or by some other means.

10 / 20
Youth & Family Support

Conversion therapy is legal in Iowa. There is no legislation preventing adoption agencies from denying prospective parents based on religious beliefs. State law still uses “husband and wife” in its language around adoption by married couples. LGBTQ+ youth are protected against discrimination and bullying at school.

12.33 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

Governor Kim Reynolds and Senator Joni Ernst are vocally anti-LGBTQ+ but often decline to challenge LGBTQ+ rights that they consider to be settled by the Supreme Court. Senator Chuck Grassley is vocally anti-LGBTQ+ in his policies and statements. There are currently no laws allowing for religious exemptions from civil rights law.

12 / 20
Health Access & Safety

Hate crime protections exist for sexual orientation but not for gender identity. There are no laws mandating coverage of transgender healthcare by private insurers nor for Medicaid. Intentionally transmitting HIV is a felony, and inadvertently doing so is a misdemeanor.

11 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

17% of transgender employees in Iowa report being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, 25% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom not matching gender. 22% of LGBTQ+ Iowans report food insecurity, double that of non-LGBTQ+s. LGBTQ+ unemployment (6%) is twice the rate of non-LGBTQ+ unemployment.

11 / 20
A Note on Methodology

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
Talking Points
  • 3.6% of Iowa residents identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that's LGBTQ+ personal income of $5.5 billion – it’s a market my business can’t afford to ignore.
  • Iowa’s comprehensive nondiscrimination law protects LGBTQ+ people, so the state is already experiencing the positive economic impacts of such policies. One estimate suggests that the state's economy may have grown 3%, or $5.5 billion, thanks to its inclusive approach. That said, there's still a gap between policy and culture, and organizations in Iowa have a business imperative to ensure that LGBTQ+ people feel welcome in their workplaces.
  • Iowa has a favorable economic environment for business investment – but taking steps to make LGBTQ+ people feel safer and more included would better enable companies to attract top LGBTQ+ talent.
  • When LGBTQ+ employees don't feel welcome at work, they're less likely to stay, and employee turnover is a drag on the state economy and business competitiveness. It costs companies an average of $8,946 to replace an employee in Iowa, and it can cost up to $450,622 to replace senior executives. Iowa and the businesses operating there have strong incentives to create inclusive workplaces in the interest of keeping these costs down.
  • Millennial and Gen Z consumers prefer to do business with companies with LGBTQ+ friendly advertising and policies – 54% say they’re more likely to choose an LGBTQ+ inclusive brand over a competitor – which is why it’s important that Iowa create a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • Community leaders in Iowa should take steps to ease stigmatization of trans people – equality is good for everyone's bottom line.
Impact of LGBTQ+ Discrimination on Business and Talent
  • 1
    No Risk
  • 2
    Low Risk
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
  • 4
    Notable Risk
  • 5
    High Risk

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

  • 4
    Notable Risk
Companies face notable brand risk when doing business in Iowa, where political leaders regularly take public stands against LGBTQ+ equality and the conversation is frequently hostile.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
There is moderate risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in Iowa due to the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
Iowa’s relatively comprehensive nondiscrimination protections would likely be an effective enticement to LGBTQ+ professionals considering working in the state, if statewide leaders worked to create a more welcoming dialogue.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
There’s low risk to marketing to LGBTQ+ people in Iowa, although companies would do well to tightly target their messaging.
  • 4
    Notable Risk
The state legislature recently moved to limit access to transgender healthcare in its state budget, and discriminatory bills are filed every session. There remains a notable risk of a future headline-making, negative event.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community

A poll in 2018 showed that over half of LGBTQ+ Iowans weren’t out to their healthcare providers.

Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community

Steve King, who has a history of homophobic and white nationalist statements and who has been roundly criticized on a national scale for his views, was nonetheless re-elected by his district in 2018. However, he lost the GOP primary in 2020.