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

Gender confirmation surgery is required to update gender markers on birth certificates and driver’s licenses. There is no statewide legislation explicitly protecting LGBT+ people from discrimination, but in practice various policies have been interpreted as providing it and 12 municipalities offer some protections at the local level.

7 / 20
Youth & Family Support

Childcare agencies that accept state funding must have policies that protect LGBT+ youths from discrimination. LGBT+ single parents and same-sex couples can adopt in the state. There is no ban on conversion therapy.

10 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

Kentucky has one republic U.S. Senator, whose record on LGBT+ rights falls along party lines, and a newly elected democratic U.S. Senator, Andy Beshear, who took office in December 2019 and who is expected to have a pro LGBT+ speaking and voting stance. The state does have a religious exemptions law.

7.2 / 20
Health Access & Safety

HIV status is a felony in cases of prostitution or tissue donation. Positive HIV status has also been successfully prosecuted under general law.* There are hate crimes protections on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.

10.67 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

14% of transgender employees in Kentucky reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 28% report mistreatment such as being told to present in the wrong gender in order to keep a job. 34% of LGBT+ individuals in Kentucky reported food insecurity, double the rate for non-LGBT+ people (17%). Up to 34% of LGBT+ individuals in Kentucky reported making less than $24,000 per year. 11% of LGBT+ individuals report unemployment in Kentucky, almost double the rate for non-LGBT+ people (6%).

7 / 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
  • 3.4% of Kentuckians identify as LGBT+. Conservatively, that’s LGBT+ personal income of $6.3 billion – it’s a market my business can’t afford to ignore.
  • When LGBT+ 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 $8,482 to replace an employee in Kentucky, and it can cost up to $325,000 to replace senior executives. Kentucky and the businesses operating there have strong financial incentives to create inclusive workplaces in the interest of keeping these costs down.
  • Nondiscrimination policies allow LGBT+ people to participate more fully in the economy.
  • Millennial and Gen Z consumers prefer to do business with companies with LGBT+ friendly advertising and policies – 54% say they’re more likely to choose an LGBT+ inclusive brand over a competitor – which is why it’s important that Kentucky continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • State leaders should set a welcoming, not a stigmatizing tone.
  • Kentucky has a regressive attitude towards trans-inclusive health coverage. Treating trans people as unequal makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in Kentucky – 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 www.outleadership.com/staterisk.

  • 5
    High Risk
Companies incur high risk to their brands by operating in Kentucky, where there are no statewide LGBT+ inclusive nondiscrimination protections and the state’s U.S. senators have significant track records of stand vocally against LGBT+ interests.
  • 5
    High Risk
There is notable risk of LGBT+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in Kentucky in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 4
    Notable Risk
LGBT+ talent are likely to consider Kentucky’s legal and social environment unfriendly. There is no statewide LGBT+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, and transgender people are de facto required to have surgery in order to change gender markers, both of which make working in Kentucky unattractive to LGBT+ professionals.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
There is moderate risk involved in marketing to the LGBT+ community in Kentucky, where there is no statewide LGBT+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, and legislative progress on LGBT+ equality has stalled in recent years.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
The state has seen a decline in discriminatory bills filed in recent years, but it does have one religious exemption law on the books, related to membership in state college student groups. With a newly divided government as of 2019, however, we assess only a moderate risk of future negative events.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community

Southern Kentucky saw its first-ever pride event in 2019, a response to the town of Somerset voting down a potential anti-discrimination law. And Eastern Kentucky’s first-ever pride celebration was in 2018.

Louisville has hosted an LGBT+ pride event since 1987. 20,000 people attended in 2019.

Kentucky got its first LGBT+-related historical markers in 2018.

 Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community

Though visibility and acceptance are rising, Kentucky remains a state where a barbecue joint selling an anti-LGBT+ t-shirt isn’t universally panned: after the shirt made the news in April 2019, they reportedly sold out and ordered more.

53% of residents oppose allowing small business religious exemptions.

64% of Kentuckians favor LGBT+ antidiscrimination laws.