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 comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation but not for gender identity. Transgender people in Wisconsin can change their gender markers on their birth certificate, but it requires gender confirmation surgery. Applicants must submit an affidavit from a physician or a court order to change their gender marker on their driver’s license.

10 / 20
Youth & Family Support

Conversion therapy is legal statewide but it has been banned for minors in multiple municipalities. The Family & Medical Leave Act is available for partners and spouses.

14.30 / 20
Political & Religious Attitudes

Both Governor Tony Evers and Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian elected to the US Senate, have strong records of voting and speaking out for LGBTQ+ equality. The other senator, Ron Johnson, has a record of voting against LGBTQ+ interests. There are no broad religious exemptions in state law.

17 / 20
Health Access & Safety

There are hate crimes protections for sexual orientation but not for gender identity. Wisconsin does not explicitly criminalize HIV+ status but it can lead to a heightened penalty in the context of another crime. Medicaid excludes transgender healthcare, and private insurers are not barred from doing the same. State employee coverage includes transgender health services.

14 / 20
Work Environment & Employment

12% of transgender employees in Wisconsin report being harassed in the past year due to their gender identity, and 18% report mistreatment such as being forced to use a restroom not matching their gender. 17% of LGBTQ+ Wisconsinites report food insecurity, compared to a rate of 11% among non-LGBTQ+ Wisconsinites. LGBTQ+ unemployment (9%) is more than twice the general rate (4%).

15 / 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
  • 3.8% of Wisconsinites identify as LGBTQ+. Conservatively, that's LGBTQ+ personal income of $11.2 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 $9,254 to replace an employee in Wisconsin, and it can cost up to $330,000 to replace senior executives. Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.
  • Wisconsin has a regressive attitude towards trans people when it comes to requiring surgery for gender marker changes on official documents, nondiscrimination protections, hate crimes protections, and healthcare coverage. Treating trans people as unequal makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in Wisconsin -- 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.

  • 3
    Moderate Risk
Companies incur moderate risk to their brands by operating in Wisconsin, where statewide nondiscrimination protections cover sexual orientation but not gender identity. The governor and one senator are vocally pro-LGBTQ+, while the other senator has an anti-LGBTQ+ voting record.
  • 2
    Low Risk
There is low risk of LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients pulling their business from companies operating in Wisconsin in light of the state’s business climate and reputation.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
LGBTQ+ talent might consider Wisconsin’s legal and social environment unfriendly. Statewide nondiscrimination and hate crimes protections cover sexual orientation but not gender identity, both of which could make working in Wisconsin unattractive to LGBTQ+ professionals.
  • 3
    Moderate Risk
There is moderate risk involved in marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in Wisconsin, where both statewide nondiscrimination laws and hate crimes legislation protect sexual orientation but not gender identity, and no statewide restrictions exist on the practice of conversion therapy.
  • 1
    No Risk
The state seems to have little to no appetite to pursue discriminatory legislation, and with a divided government, we currently see no risk of a future negative event.
Socio-cultural Environment of LGBTQ+ People:

Status of LGBTQ+ Organizing and Community

  • Milwaukee’s PrideFest is the nation’s only pride festival held on permanent festival grounds.

Cultural Views of the LGBTQ+ Community

  • Twelve parents sued the Madison school district in February 2020 for its affirming, accepting policy toward trans students. The plaintiffs alleged that that acceptance violated their parental rights.
  • Still, nearly ¾ of Wisconsinites support LGBTQ+ antidiscrimination protections.