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

Amended markers on birth certificates annotate, rather than replace, the pre-existing ones. Once a court order is received and birth certificate is amended with marginal notation to reflect an updated gender marker, the gender marker on a driver’s license can be changed. Only four Mississippi cities have fully comprehensive non-discrimination ordinances: Jackson, Magnolia, Clarksdale and Holly Springs.

7 / 20
Youth & Family Support

Youths in foster care are supposedly protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, but adoption agencies can refuse to place them on religious grounds. It’s also legal to discriminate against potential LGBTQ+ adoptive parents on religious grounds. There is no ban on conversion therapy in the state.

6.4 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

The state has a religious exemption law aimed directly at preserving an ability to discriminate against LGBTQ+ Mississippians. Both of the state’s U.S. Senators and its Governor have long records of voting and speaking against LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion.

6 / 20
Health Access & Safety

Knowingly exposing someone to HIV is considered a felony in the state.* There are no hate crimes protections for LGBTQ+ Mississippians. There is no mandated coverage for trans-related healthcare in public or private insurance, nor for transgender state employees.

7.5 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

18% of transgender employees in Mississippi reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 30% reported mistreatment such as being told to present in the wrong gender in order to keep a job. 31% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Mississippi reported food insecurity, compared to 22% of non-LGBTQ+ people. Up to 34% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Mississippi reported making less than $24,000 per year. 11% of LGBTQ+ individuals report unemployment in Mississippi, nearly double the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (7%).

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
  • 3.5% of Mississippians identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that’s an LGBTQ+ personal income of $3.97 billion – it’s a market my business can’t afford to ignore.
  • 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 $7,782 to replace an employee in Mississippi, and it can cost up to $239,220 to replace senior executives. Mississippi and the businesses operating there have strong financial incentives to create inclusive workplaces in the interest of keeping these costs down.
  • Nondiscrimination policies allow LGBTQ+ people to participate more fully in the economy.
  • 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 Mississippi continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • State leaders should set a welcoming, not a stigmatizing tone.
  • Mississippi has a regressive attitude towards trans-inclusive health coverage. Treating transgender people as unequal makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in Mississippi -- 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 Mississippi, where there are no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination or hate crimes protections and a religious freedom law was crafted specifically to allow for LGBTQ+ discrimination. The state’s senators have negative voting records on LGBTQ+ issues, and the governor is openly transphobic.
  • 5
    High Risk
There is notable risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in Mississippi in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 5
    High Risk
LGBTQ+ talent are highly likely to consider Mississippi’s legal and social environment unfriendly. There is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, and state lawmakers are vocally anti-LGBTQ+, both of which make working there unattractive to LGBTQ+ professionals.
  • 5
    High Risk
There is notable risk involved in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in Mississippi, where there is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under state hate crimes legislation, and no statewide restrictions exist on the practice of conversion therapy.
  • 5
    High Risk
Mississippi has one of the most sweeping anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the country, which passed in 2016 and has since survived court challenges. There remains a notable risk of future negative events.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community

Starkville, MS, celebrated its second annual pride parade in 2019. In 2018, the city council initially rejected organizers’ permit application to hold the parade, but town officials reconsidered in the face of a federal lawsuit. The 2020 parade was postponed due to COVID-19 and is being held in April 2022.

There are also annual pride events in Biloxi, Tupelo, Sioux Falls, Hattiesburg and Jackson. Most of them are less than five years old.

Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community

In the past few years, there have been numerous transgender deaths in Mississippi, including Mercedes Williamson, Mesha Caldwell and Dee Whigham. Unless the assailant crosses state lines, the federal hate crimes law is not applicable to prosecute these as hate crimes.

A 2018 – 2019 survey of LGBTQ+ people in Mississippi found that a majority of respondents (54%) reported experiencing verbal harassment in public places, while 47% reported being victims of sexual abuse or assault

In April 2019, a straight Mississippi man was beaten so severely his jaw was broken in two places because attackers thought he was gay.