These Are the Hardest States in America to Be LGBT

A new report shows why LGBT people face many challenges despite social and political gains.

(Photo: Flickr)

Jun 2, 2015· 2 MIN READ
Michael Schramm is a University of Michigan student covering social justice and economics. His work has appeared in USA Today and The Michigan Daily.

In many ways, this is a great time to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in America. Nearly 60 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, and the Supreme Court may soon legalize such unions. Images of LGBT people across American society are more diverse: Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympian, is one vivid example. Yet, despite such progress, LGBT people face significant challenges.

That’s the takeaway from a new report, Mapping LGBT Equality in America, by the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that studies LGBT issues. The report notes that 52 percent of LGBT Americans risk being fired or denied access to doctors’ offices and restaurants simply because of their sexual orientation. The report also notes that nearly 90 percent of LGBT people live in states where their children aren’t legally protected from discrimination for having an LGBT parent. Nearly 60 percent of LGBT people live in states where LGBT children aren’t protected from discrimination at school. And 72 percent of LGBT people live in states where it’s difficult for transgender people to get the correct gender marker on a government-issued identification card.

“Our data shows that no matter what happens with the Supreme Court in June, we still have a long way to go to achieve full equality for LGBT people across the country,” Heron Greenesmith, one of the report’s authors, told TakePart.

Greenesmith and her colleague, Alex Sheldon, analyzed each state’s LGBT policies. Each state was given a point, based on whether the researchers considered the policies favorable or unfavorable for LGBT people. Points were assigned under six policy categories—for example, whether a state recognizes a same-sex relationship and marriage, or how well a state’s policies protect LGBT students, or the ability of transgender people to correct identification documents. Finally, the researchers ranked the states.

Here are the four states where it’s most difficult to be a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person:

(Map: Courtesy

1. Louisiana

Louisiana is the most difficult state for LGBT people. The state restricts same-sex couples from jointly adopting and bars educators from talking about LGBT topics during sexual education class. In recent days, Louisiana’s governor, Bobby Jindal, a Republican, signed an executive order that essentially allows certain institutions—particularly religious institutions—to discriminate against LGBT people.

2. Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the few states to have banned cities and counties from passing laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. Some of the state's schools have denied admission to children of LGBT parents.

3. Michigan

Michigan limits the ability of same-sex couples to petition for joint adoption. Recently, Michigan legislator Earl Poleski, a Republican, introduced a bill that could eliminate laws that prevent LGBT discrimination.

4. Alabama

The researchers found that Alabama has virtually no policies that are favorable for LGBT people. Alabama is at the center of the same-sex marriage debate. The state has its own version of a religious freedom law. It also has a law that tells educators to inform students that homosexuality is unacceptable and punishable under criminal law. Alabama legislator Chris England, a Democrat, recently tried to pass a bill that would prohibit LGBT discrimination. The bill failed.