Out Leadership, an organization that operates globally with a focus on the intersection of the LGBTQ+ community and business, released their fourth annual State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index for 2022, where the state of Washington ranked 13th.
The index provides a ranking of all 50 states regarding legal, political, emotional support, health, business, and other parameters for LGBTQ+ Americans. The top 10 states are New York (ranked #1 for the second year in a row), Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, Oregon, California and Colorado.
The lowest ranking states are Montana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma and South Carolina (ranked #50 for the third year in a row). The average score across all 50 states was 64.61 out of 100, which is a slight increase from last year’s average of 64.03.
“The 2022 State Level Business Climate Index is a living roadmap, highlighting the places where we must be both reactive and proactive,” said Todd Sears, founder and CEO of Out Leadership.
Sears acknowledged how the top ranking states slightly increased in score, while the bottom ranking states decreased in score or remained stagnant.
“This signals a widening gap across the country between the ideology of equality and the tactics used to achieve or dismantle it,” said Sears, who brought up how the country is more polarized than ever.
According to Sears, a number of current events have contributed to that factor, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jan. 6 insurrection, pending landmark Supreme Court decisions, and the upcoming midterm elections.
“Each of these events and many more fuel a fire that motivates those organized in opposition to equality,” said Sears.
What Washington’s report says
Final scores are provided based on 20 carefully selected markers assessing the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals across five categories: Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections, Youth and Family Support, Political and Religious Attitudes, Health Access and Safety, and Work Environment and Employment. Washington received a final score of 85.83 out of 100.
Questions within the Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections category include “How difficult is it to change a gender marker on a birth certificate?” and “Does the state have any employment nondiscrimination policies for LGBT+ people?” For this portion of the assessment, Washington received a score of 20 out of 20. According to Out Leadership, 74% of Washington residents support LGBTQ+ anti-discriminatory protections.
For Youth and Family Support, Washington received a score of 17.83 out of 20. Questions in this category include “Is conversion therapy banned for minors?” and “How supportive is the state of LGBT+ people who are in or want to start families?”
Questions within the Political and Religious Attitudes section include “Has the governor recently spoken or campaigned against LGBT+ issues?” and “To what extent does the state allow for religious exemptions from its laws?” Washington received a score of 20 out of 20 for this portion. Out Leadership data suggests that 56% of Washingtonians oppose religious exemptions that would allow for small business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ+ community.
For Health Access and Safety, Washington received a score of 15 out of 20. Questions within this category include “Are LGBT+ people protected by any hate crimes laws in the state?” and “Do LGBT+ people, particularly the most vulnerable and economically precarious, have access to health care and insurance?” Out Leadership stated how exposing someone to HIV can still be prosecuted as a felony and is punishable by life in prison or a fine up to $50,000.
Washington’s lowest score was for the Work Environment and Employment section, where the state received 13 points out of 20. Questions within this section include “What percentage of LGBT+ people are unemployed, and how does it compare to the unemployment rate of non-LGBT+ people in the state?”
According to Out Leadership, 17% of transgender employees in the state reported being harassed within the past year at work due to gender identity, while 23% reported being mistreated, such as having someone at work share private information about one’s gender.
Furthermore, 25% of LGBTQ+ individuals in Washington reported making less than $24,000 per year, which is about the federal poverty line. In comparison to the 5% of non-LGBTQ+ Washingtonians who are unemployed, 10% of LGBTQ+ Washingtonians reported unemployment.