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

There are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people in South Dakota. Changing the gender markers on a birth certificate requires a court order, and a driver’s license requires either a court order, an amended birth certificate, or an affidavit from a doctor attesting to a medical gender transition. However, there are non-discrimination policies in certain cities that include sexual orientation and gender identity. More cities are also exploring home-rule status, which would allow more inclusive non-discrimination policies to be passed.

5 / 20
Youth & Family Support

It’s legal to discriminate against potential adoptive parents on religious grounds. Conversion therapy is legal in the state. There are no protections for youths in foster care, specifically, though there are more general rules stipulating that social services clients can’t be subject to discrimination.

9.93 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

South Dakota has a religious exemption law as of 2021. The state’s Governor and U.S. Senators have a track record of speaking and legislating against LGBTQ+ equality

7.40 / 20
Health Access & Safety

There are no hate crimes protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. HIV exposure is considered a felony.* Trans healthcare is only covered for public employees in a few towns and counties, and it’s specifically banned from the state health plan.

6.50 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

13% of transgender employees in South Dakota reported being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 19% report mistreatment such as being told to present in the wrong gender in order to keep a job. 29% of LGBTQ+ individuals in South Dakota reported food insecurity, almost triple the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (12%). Up to 30% of LGBTQ+ individuals in South Dakota reported making less than $24,000 per year. 15% of LGBTQ+ individuals report unemployment in South Dakota, five-times the rate for non-LGBTQ+ people (3%).

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% of South Dakotans identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that’s LGBTQ+ personal income of $1.3 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 $8,154 to replace an employee in South Dakota, and it can cost up to $536,653 to replace senior executives. South Dakota 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 South Dakota continues to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • State leaders should set a welcoming, not a stigmatizing tone.
  • South Dakota 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 South Dakota – 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

  • 5
    High Risk
Companies incur high risk to their brands by operating in South Dakota. There are no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination protections, the state’s governor and senators have negative voting records on LGBTQ+ issues, and the state allows discrimination against adoptive parents on religious grounds.
  • 5
    High Risk
There is high risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in South Dakota in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 5
    High Risk
LGBTQ+ talent are highly likely to consider South Dakota’s legal and social environment unfriendly. There is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination or hate crimes laws, and state lawmakers are vocally anti-LGBTQ+, both of which make working in South Dakota unattractive to LGBTQ+ professionals.
  • 5
    High Risk
There is notable risk involved in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in South Dakota, where there is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected under state hate crimes legislation, no statewide restrictions exist on the practice of conversion therapy, and there are anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced every legislative session.
  • 5
    High Risk
South Dakota consistently sees discriminatory bills filed each year, and some have shown movement. There is a child welfare religious exemption law on the books. Risk of a future negative event remains high.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community

Sioux Falls, the biggest city in the state, held its first pride parade in 2019. There are about nine other pride festivals or events throughout South Dakota.

  • The state is considered easy fodder for anti-LGBTQ+ lobbyists, making every legislative session subject to the introduction of multiple discriminatory bills – 16 in the past few years alone. Only one ended up passing, a result that is credited to outspoken trans advocates in the state.
  • There are at least three state-wide organizations (ACLU of SD, Transformation SD and Equality SD) that advocate for LGBTQ+ people/rights. The cities of Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Pierre all have local LGBTQ+ volunteer organizations.
  • Most of the colleges/universities have Gay/Straight alliances or a diversity center.

Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community

  • 42% of South Dakotans favor allowing small businesses religious exemptions to discriminate against potential LGBTQ+ customers.
  • 68% of South Dakotans favor nondiscrimination laws that would protect LGBTQ+ people.