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

Sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination protections exist only for state employees (by executive order). Localities were preempted from passing non-discrimination laws in private employment and public accommodations until December 2020. Since it expired, six municipalities have passed protections. Gender confirmation surgery is required to change gender markers on a birth certificate, and a form signed by a healthcare or social services provider is required to change gender markers on a state driver’s license.

9.75 / 20
Youth & Family Support

There is no ban on conversion therapy in North Carolina. Second parent adoption is allowed only if the couple is married. In the case of assisted reproduction, the state only recognizes non-gestational parents if married. There is no statewide protection against discrimination in education, but anti-bullying provisions explicitly enumerate sexual orientation and gender identity.

14.03 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

Governor Roy Cooper has pro-LGBTQ+ record, while the state’s two US Senators have a negative LGBTQ+ rights voting record. There’s no RFRA in the state, but officials are permitted to decline to register same-sex marriages if their religious beliefs conflict.

14.2 / 20
Health Access & Safety

North Carolina’s current hate crimes protections do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Transgender healthcare coverage is not covered by state Medicaid, and private insurers are permitted to exclude it from their plans. People with HIV must disclose their status to potential partners unless their viral load has been suppressed for six months, and violations of this law are classified as misdemeanors.

7.5 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

16% of transgender employees in North Carolina report being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 32% report mistreatment such as having someone at work share private information about their gender. 29% of LGBTQ+ North Carolinians report food insecurity, compared to 16% of non-LGBTQ+ North Carolinians. LGBTQ+ unemployment (8%) is slightly greater than the general rate (6%).

10 / 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
  • 4% of North Carolina residents identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that's LGBTQ+ personal income of $19 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 $9,216 to replace an employee in North Carolina, and it can cost up to $447,406 to replace senior executives. North Carolina and the businesses operating there have strong 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 North Carolina continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • North Carolina has a regressive attitude towards trans people in insurance coverage, gender marker changes, hate crimes protections and, notoriously, bathroom laws. Treating trans people as unequal makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in North Carolina – 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 incur notable risk to their brands by operating in North Carolina, where there are no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination protections and localities are preempted from passing non-discrimination laws in private employment and public accommodations until December 2020.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
There is moderate risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in North Carolina in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 4
    Notable Risk
LGBTQ+ professionals are likely to consider North Carolina’s legal and social environment unfriendly. There is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, and North Carolina is the only state where someone in a same-sex dating couple can’t file a domestic violence order, both of which make working in North Carolina unattractive to LGBTQ+ talent.
  • 4
    Notable Risk
There is notable risk involved in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in North Carolina, where there is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, no statewide restrictions exist on the practice of conversion therapy, and sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under hate crimes legislation.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
The state is still suffering some negative brand impacts from its major, headline-making "bathroom bill" event in 2016. While appetite for similar policies appears to have diminished, a statewide nondiscrimination preemption law remains in place through 2020, and there remains moderate risk of future negative events.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community

The bathroom portion of HB2 generated significant nationwide criticism, particularly among the LGBTQ+ community, and litigation spearheaded by the ACLU and Lambda Legal challenging the law ensued.

The ACLU and Lambda Legal subsequently expanded their legal challenge to include HB142. On September 30, 2018, a federal district court ruled that nothing in HB142 prevents transgender people from using public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity. The court also permitted a challenge to go forward to the law’s ban on local nondiscrimination policies.

A North Carolina statute enacted in 2015 permits magistrates or their assistants to recuse themselves from performing marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. In 2016, a group of taxpayers challenged the law as a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit dismissed the case, saying that the defendants lacked standing to file it.

State employees are suing because state health insurance doesn’t include coverage of gender dysphoria. A state attempt to get the suit dismissed was denied in 2020.

Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community

HB2 made national news in 2016. Though subsequently walked back, the state lost several high-profile business opportunities. As late as January 2019, news broke that Netflix wouldn’t film Outer Banks in the state because of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. 

North Carolina’s passage of HB2 was viewed as the precursor to a huge glut of anti-trans bills introduced in statehouses throughout the nation in 2021.