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
It’s easy and straightforward to update the gender markers on a birth certificate or a driver’s license. The state has comprehensive nondiscrimination laws inclusive of sexual orientation as well as gender identity and expression.
Conversion therapy to minors is illegal in the state. It’s illegal to discriminate against children on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Adoption agencies are banned from using religion to discriminate against potential LGBTQ+ parents.
The state has a Governor and U.S. Senators who consistently speak and vote in favor of equality and inclusion. Rhode Island has had a religious exemption law since 1993.
All insurance providers in Rhode Island must cover transgender healthcare. The state offers comprehensive hate crimes protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. HIV is not criminalized.*
15% of transgender employees in Rhode Island reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 16% report mistreatment such as having someone at work share private information about their gender. 24% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Rhode Island reported food insecurity, close to double the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (17%). Up to 28% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Rhode Island reported making less than $24,000 per year. 9% of LGBTQ+ individuals report unemployment in Rhode Island, almost double the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (5%).
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.
The Northeast has the lowest percentage of those who are out at work (49.6%). LGBTQ+ workers in urban environments, however, do feel slightly more comfortable talking about their personal lives vs. urban LGBTQ+ workers for the rest of the country (17% more likely than nationwide). Workers in this region are more likely to hear or engage in negative conversations about LGBTQ+ people at work. Particularly for the non-LGBTQ+ group, which is 23% more likely to report observing or experiencing negative conversations about LGBTQ+ people vs the nation as a whole. Despite being more likely to hear negative conversations at work, workers in this region are the least likely to say that they hear this negativity from state leadership. They are 61% less likely to report that leadership in their state talks about LGBTQ+ people in predominantly negative terms. Like most regions, there is a strong difference between urban and rural audiences, especially for the self-rated importance of team diversity when looking for jobs. LGBTQ+/Allies living in Rural areas care the least about diverse teams when looking for jobs (49% less likely than nationwide). Finally, audiences in the Northeast were 20% more likely to list “Supporting LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations” as one of their top three ways businesses can demonstrate their support for the community.
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 Northeast region included: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Legal status of the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Community
Rhode Island’s laws protect against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit, and accommodations.
The state even protects against the perception of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity, meaning a person could potentially seek recourse under the law even if they aren’t a member of the group for which they are allegedly being persecuted.
The employment antidiscrimination law applies to all public employers, as well as private employers with four or more workers.
It’s illegal to discriminate against children in Rhode Island on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
The state does not permit adoption agencies to decline prospective parents based on religious beliefs.
Rhode Island has had a religious exemption law since 1993. It bans the state from restricting a person’s “free exercise of religion” unless the restriction is generally applicable and does not “intentionally discriminate against religion, or among religions,” and the governmental authority proves that the restriction is “essential” to further a compelling governmental interest and is using the least restrictive means of furthering that interest.
Exposure to HIV is not explicitly criminalized in Rhode Island. However, there is a misdemeanor offense for sexually transmitted diseases on the books. The statute specifically prohibits anyone from knowingly exposing another person to the disease. Violations include a $100 fine or a three-month prison sentence.
There are hate crimes protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, but the enhanced sentencing that hate crimes carry doesn’t extend to the latter.
Rhode Island banned conversion therapy for minors by licensed professionals in 2017. It’s not illegal to conduct conversion therapy in an unlicensed situation, but it isn’t eligible for insurance reimbursement or coverage.
Legal status of the Transgender Community
Applicants can change the gender markers on a birth certificate if they have undergone gender affirmation “based on contemporary clinical standards.” The updated certificate will state that it has been amended but won’t specify what changed. A nonbinary option is available.
Updating the gender marker on a driver’s license simply requires surrendering the current license and completing a form for a new one. There has been a nonbinary option available since June 2020.
Name changes on a driver’s license require that applicants get a name-change order from a court, update their social security records, and then wait 24 hours before updating other documentation.
Medicaid covers transgender healthcare in Rhode Island, including mental health treatment, hormone therapy and sexual confirmation surgery.
Insurance denials based on gender identity, expression or dysphoria is considered sex discrimination and is banned under state law.
Government statements and actions
In 2022, the Rhode Island legislature introduced a bill that would ban trans women and girls from participating in women and girls’ sports teams. The bill is currently in review.
In 2021, Gov. Daniel McKee signed a law that makes all single-stall public bathrooms in public places gender neutral.
In July 2018, former Gov. Gina Raimondo signed a law mandating that death certificates reflect people’s gender identity.
The state’s public health department has a Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Equity Group devoted to improving public health policies and outcomes for LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders.
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
Rhode Island has had a pride event since 1976. It now draws about 60,000 people annually and is scheduled to be held in June 2022.
Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community
After the state’s bishop tweeted against Pride Month, Rhode Island Pride, the Governor, and various Catholic clergy in the state condemned his comments.
The Rhode Island Foundation, which gives community grants in the state, has a 15-year-old initiative focused on awarding monies to LGBTQ+ initiatives in the state. The Equity Action Fund gives out about $50,000 a year.