'Sobering Reality': LGBTQ Rights Determined By Where You Live

NEW YORK, NY — More than half of the states in America received the lowest possible rating when it comes to enacting laws and policies that affect — and protect — LGBTQ people. That’s according to The Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute, which released their fifth annual State Equality Index on Friday.

On the nationwide scorecards, states were placed into one of four categories based on how well their laws impact the LGBTQ community. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C. received the highest rating, “Working Toward Innovative Equality.” Among the most notable — and perhaps least surprising — findings is that states in the North are far better at enacting laws that positively affect and protect LGBTQ people. States in the highest-rated category include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Four states were placed into the second-highest rating, “Solidifying Equality,” and two were placed into the third-highest category,”Building Equality.”

But 28 states fell into the lowest-rated category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” This includes a wide swath of the South and parts of the Midwest: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Each state’s scorecard includes both positive laws (highlighted in blue) and negative laws (highlighted in orange) that affect the LGBTQ community. For example, in the parenting category, a positive law identified by the authors includes the ability of a second parent of the same sex to seek adoption of their partner’s children, even if those individuals aren’t in a legally recognized relationship. Conversely, a negative law in the category includes allowing discrimination when it comes to the placement of foster children with LGBTQ families.

There are currently no comprehensive civil rights protections for LGBTQ people at the federal level. That means the rights of millions of LGBTQ people and their families largely depend on where they live. Indeed, in 30 states, they’re at risk for being fired, evicted or denied services because of who they are, the advocacy group said in a release.

HRC President Chad Griffin called it a “sobering reality” and that the rights of LGBTQ people “are determined by which side of a state or city line they call home.”

“As this year’s State Equality Index makes clear, the time has come for us to do away with this patchwork of state laws and to protect all LGBTQ people by passing the federal Equality Act,” he said, referring to a bill sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives that would establish comprehensive federal protections for the LGBTQ community.

Photo credit: David Silverman/Getty Images

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