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

Not only does Tennessee lack LGBTQ+ discrimination protections, it has a law that prohibits local governments from expanding those protections to groups that aren’t covered at the state level. The state does not allow trans people to change the gender markers on their birth certificates, and surgery is required to change a gender marker on a driver’s license.

2.00 / 20
Youth & Family Support

Conversion therapy is legal in Tennessee. The state’s Department of Children’s Services operates using LGBTQ+ inclusive policies toward children.

10.73 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

State politicians have extensive records of voting and speaking against LGBTQ+ rights and protections. There is no “religious freedom” law, but state lawmakers often introduce bills with a religious component, such as bills that would render national same-sex marriage laws void.

7.60 / 20
Health Access & Safety

State Medicaid policy explicitly excludes transgender individuals in Tennessee. Hate crime protections exist for sexual orientation, but not for gender identity. It is a felony to knowingly expose someone else to HIV.

6 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

29% of transgender employees in Tennessee report being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 43% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom not matching their gender identity. 28% of LGBTQ+ Tennesseans report food insecurity, compared to 17% of non-LGBTQ+ Tennesseans.

9 / 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 Tennessee residents identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that's LGBTQ+ personal income of $11.1 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 $8,710 to replace an employee in Tennessee, and it can cost upwards of $325,000 to replace senior executives. Tennessee 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 Tennessee continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • Tennessee has a regressive attitude towards trans people when it comes to antidiscrimination protections, gender markers on official documents, hate crimes protections and healthcare coverage. Treating trans people as unequal makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in Tennessee – 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 Tennessee, where there are no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination protections and local governments are prohibited from expanding those protections to groups that aren’t covered at the state level. The state’s governor and senators have negative voting records on LGBTQ+ issues, and stand vocally against LGBTQ+ interests
  • 5
    High Risk
There is notable risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in Tennessee in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 5
    High Risk
LGBTQ+ professionals are very likely to consider Tennessee’s legal and social environment unfriendly. There is no statewide LGBTQ+ inclusive nondiscrimination law, municipalities are prohibited from instituting LGBTQ+ protections, and the state has discriminatory policies on gender marker changes and transgender healthcare, all of which make working in Tennessee unattractive to LGBTQ+ talent.
  • 4
    Notable Risk
There is notable risk involved in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in Tennessee.
  • 5
    High Risk
Tennessee is one of the highest-risk states for a future negative event. Appetite for discriminatory legislation appears to be high among some state lawmakers, with high bill volumes year on year. The state also has multiple discriminatory laws on the books. Risk of a future negative event is high.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBT+ Organizing and Community

  • Equality Tennessee organized religious leaders against the spate of anti-LGBTQ bills – over 100 clergy came out against them.
  • The spate of transphobic laws passed in 2021 caused multiple music industry companies, as well as trans celebrities Jennifer Pritzker and Elliot Page, to speak out against the state’s actions.

Cultural Views of the LGBT+ Community

  • Tennessee counselors and therapists may refuse to provide services to a client if the client’s “goals, outcomes, or behaviors… conflict with the sincerely held principles of the counselor or therapist.” This enables a Tennessee counselor or therapist to turn away LGBT+ clients, provided that the counselor or therapist refers the prospective client to a provider who will see that person and the prospective client is not in imminent danger of harming him or herself or others.
  • Taylor Swift, a Tennessee native, spoke out on politics for the first time in 2020 in opposition to Marsha Blackburn’s candidacy for the Senate, writing: “[Blackburn] believes businesses have a right to refuse service to gay couples. She also believes they should not have the right to marry. These are not MY Tennessee values.” Blackburn won the election.