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
In 2021, a new law made gender surgery a prerequisite for changing the gender marker on a birth certificate. There are no state-wide nondiscrimination protections covering the LGBTQ+ community.
Conversion therapy remains legal in Montana. Youths in foster care are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity. Religious adoption agencies can include religious concerns when placing children.
Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who took office in 2021, has already established a pattern of signing laws harmful to LGBTQ+ Montanans. He signed a religious exemption law in 2021.
There are no hate crimes protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Knowingly exposing someone to HIV or AIDS can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.* Medicaid covers trans healthcare but there’s no requirement that other insurers in the state do so.
15% of transgender employees in Montana reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 29% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom not matching gender. 37% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Montana reported food insecurity, almost triple the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (13%). Up to 37% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Montana reported making less than $24,000 per year. 7% of LGBTQ+ individuals report unemployment in Montana, almost double the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (4%).
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
Montana does not have statewide legislation that explicitly protects LGBTQ+ individuals.
State employees are protected from discrimination on the basis or sexual orientation and gender identity.
Various cities in Montana have nondiscrimination ordinances that cover discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment. These include Helena, Butte, Bozeman, Missoula and Whitefish.
Juvenile detention facilities are prohibited from discriminating against youth based on sexual orientation.
Youth in foster care are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity.
Any individual in Montana can legally adopt, and there’s no law prohibiting joint adoption by a same-sex couple.
Adoption agencies affiliated with a particular religion can consider religious factors in placing a child.
Knowing exposure to HIV/AIDS is a misdemeanor in Montana.
Montana does not have a hate crimes law inclusive of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The state does not ban conversion therapy.
Legal Status of the Transgender Community
In April 2022, a Montana state court blocked a law that required proof of gender confirmation surgery to update the gender marker on a Montana birth certificate. Previously, the update required a correction affidavit accompanied by one of the following: a completed gender designation form issued by the state certifying that that the individual has undergone gender affirmation and that the gender marker on their birth certificate should be changed accordingly; a government-issued ID displaying the correct gender marker; a court order.
To update the gender marker on a state ID, an applicant must submit a certified copy of court order granting the name change, as well as a letter from a doctor stating that the person is in the process of undergoing or has undergone a gender transition.
Transgender care is covered under Medicaid in Montana when medically necessary. The determination of medical necessity is made by the provider, and providers are specifically referred to the “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People,” published by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.
There is not a state law requiring that insurance plans cover transgender healthcare.
Government Statements and Actions
Gov. Greg Gianforte signed multiple anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law in 2021. They included requiring surgery to change birth certificate gender markers, banning trans athletes from playing on teams aligned with their gender identity, a religious exemptions law, and a law banning schools from teaching students about sexual orientation or gender identity without parental consent.
In 2019 and 2020, liberal lawmakers introduced a bill that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity into the state’s anti-discrimination protections. The bill died in committee both times.
Former Democratic Governor Steve Bullock has extended anti-discrimination protections to LGBTQ+ state employees and has been publicly supportive of LGBTQ+ rights despite helming an overall conservative state.
Bullock ordered the rainbow flag flown over the state house during pride weekend 2019 in the face of widespread opposition.
In April 2019, after Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ+ stance pre-empted new restaurant locations planned for New York and Texas, former Attorney General Tim Fox invited the restaurant chain to open more locations in Montana.
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
The state’s annual Big Sky Pride parade drew about 1,000 people for its 26th anniversary in 2019. After 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, the 2022 festival is planned for a week July.
Free and Fair Montana, an LGBTQ+ activist group in the state, helped defeat a potential ballot measure in 2018 that would have brought a bathroom bill to a popular vote. Campaign organizers subsequently created the organization Transvisible to continue advocating for the transgender and nonbinary community in Montana.
Montana’s Native American communities play an important role as the largest community of color in the state. The Native American vote was instrumental in getting Democratic Senator John Tester re-elected to the Senate and the Montana Two Spirit Society is the only People-of-Color LGBTQ+ organization in Montana that has provided community building and advocacy for its Native two spirit community for 25 years.
Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community
Billings, the largest city in Montana, defeated a proposed antidiscrimination ordinance in 2014. The mayor who cast the deciding vote objected to the idea of nondiscrimination in bathrooms and locker rooms. A city councilor reintroduced the idea in September 2019 but had determined by the following month that there wasn’t enough support to move forward.
51% of Montanans oppose allowing religious exemptions for small businesses.
62% of Montanans favor LGBTQ+ non-discrimination protections.