All US states given LGBTQ+ safety ratings – and the worst ones won’t surprise you

Despite years of progress toward inclusion and equality for LGBTQ+ Americans, a sense of safety at home remains elusive for many. By the end of last year, 75 of the 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced across the country in 2023 had become law, and in 2022, hate crimes against LGBTQ+ Americans reached a five-year high.

With hate crimes rising and more anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration, it’s essential to monitor the state of safety across the nation regularly. That’s why we’ve created this ranking for the third year. To grade all 50 states and Washington D.C. based on how safe they are for LGBTQ+ people,’s new scoring system includes both legislative analysis and hate crime data from the FBI. Here are a few of the key takeaways from our study:

  • Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Delaware all received A+ grades for LGBTQ+ safety based on their comprehensive pro-equality laws and low rates of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
  • South Dakota, Florida, and Wyoming were the worst states for LGBTQ+ safety in the nation, earning F grades due to their high number of discriminatory laws and hate crime reporting rates. Florida’s ranking changed dramatically since last year when it had the 15th-lowest safety score.
  • Nearly 50% of states passed new anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in 2023.
  • Hate crimes targeting LGBTQ+ people rose 10 percent between 2021 and 2022, and hate crimes against transgender people, in particular, surged 40 percent.
  • 59% of LGBTQ+ people say their state’s laws help them feel safer, but 89% say federal action is needed to enshrine protections fully.

LGBTQ+ Safety Grades by State’s state ranking is unique from others. We based our grading system on the opinions of 1,000 American LGBTQ+ individuals. Based on their insights, we calculated how heavily different laws would weigh upon each state’s safety score: parenting freedoms, criminal justice rights, non-discrimination rights, youth protections, and health laws. Then, using information from the Human Rights Campaign, we tallied how many laws each state had in the above categories and weighted them based on their perceived impact on LGBTQ+ Americans.

This year, researchers added a new factor to the safety “report card”: we determined the frequency of hate crimes committed against LGBTQ people in each state according to the latest FBI data.
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LGBTQ Safety Grades by State

Based on this new grading method, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Delaware ranked highest for LGBTQ+ safety according to our methodology, while South Dakota, Florida, and Wyoming scored lowest.

The Safest States for LGBTQ+ Americans

1. Rhode Island – Safety Grade: A+ (100)

Rhode Island had the highest safety grade in the nation due to its numerous laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights and its low incidence of hate crimes. It was notably one of only six states where every law enforcement agency reported crime data, and one of seven states that earned an A+, A, or A- in our safety analysis. The Ocean State has some of the most comprehensive laws in the country regarding LGBTQ+ health, safety, and family planning, including:

  • Foster care non-discrimination laws, which protect LGBTQ+ people wishing to participate in the foster care system as parents
  • Mandatory reporting of hate crime statistics
  • Anti-bullying youth laws, with explicit protections for LGBTQ+ youth
  • Laws that include transgender healthcare in state Medicaid programs

Rhode Island is home to the 12th-highest percentage of same-sex couples and was among the first 15 states to legalize gay marriage, which it did in 2013. Notably, in March 2024, the U.S. Senate appointed Rhode Island’s first openly LGTBQ+ judge to the federal court system.

2. New Hampshire – Safety Grade A+ (98.3)

New Hampshire boasts a wide variety of equality protections in its state laws and has one of the country’s lowest rates of reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals. New Hampshire scored a bit lower than Rhode Island partly because its laws do not explicitly protect people from discrimination on credit applications based on sexual orientation, and the state does not have a law requiring mandatory reporting of hate crime statistics.

Lawmakers in New Hampshire legalized same-sex marriage in 2010, making it the sixth state in the country to do so. In 2023, New Hampshire passed a bill that explicitly outlawed the use of someone’s sexual identity as a defense in a homicide case. Since 2013, 18 other states have adopted similar resolutions.

3. Delaware – Safety Grade A+ (98.1)

Delaware was one of the earliest states to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013, with the sixth-highest number of same-sex couples (per 1,000 households). The “First State” offers a comprehensive set of LGBTQ-friendly legal protections, including:

  • Laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity surrounding the use of surrogate mothers
  • Laws that protect people from conversion therapy
  • Bans on insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare

These protections, along with Delaware’s extremely low incidence of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people, make it one of the safest states in 2024.

4. Alaska – Safety Grade A (93.5)

Alaskans elected their state’s first three openly LGBTQ+ legislators in 2022. Although they did not all campaign on LGBTQ+ issues, their presence aligns with their state’s general direction, as indicated by this year’s rankings. All three of these new legislators are sponsors of a bill currently under consideration that would add protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

While Alaska does not have quite as many legal protections for its LGBTQ+ residents as the states ranking above it and has a law that allows for transgender exclusion in sports, it does provide a relatively equal and safe environment. Alaska is also home to the country’s third-highest percentage of same-sex couples who are raising a child.

5. Hawaii – Safety Grade A (92.5)

Hawaii rounds out the top five safest states for LGBTQ+ Americans, thanks to its strong legal protections and low rates of reported hate crimes. Hawaii has a long legacy of being relatively LGBTQ+-friendly; in 1973, it became the sixth state to legalize same-sex sexual activity, and in 1993, it became the first state to formally consider legalizing same-sex marriage.

Hawaii’s LGBTQ+ legal protections include the presumption of a parental relationship for both parents with regard to any children born of that marriage and LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies. It is also one of the 26 states that allow name and gender marker updates on both driver’s licenses and birth certificates and one of 19 states that have eliminated the “bias rage or panic defense for criminal acts,” a tactic used to achieve lighter sentencing when an assailant is motivated to violence by learning the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Worst States for LGBTQ+ Safety

1. South Dakota – Safety Grade F (46.8)

South Dakota has the unfortunate distinction of having the lowest LGBTQ+ safety grade out of all the states. Its legal landscape is more prone to anti-equality than pro-equality, and has a relatively high rate of reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. The few protections South Dakota offers to LGBTQ+ folks include non-discrimination laws regarding admission to colleges and universities, anti-cyberbullying protections, and laws prohibiting discrimination in surrogate parenting.

Anti-equality laws on South Dakota’s books far outweigh their equality-protecting counterparts. The list of such laws includes:

  • HIV and AIDS criminalization laws
  • Laws permitting discrimination in adoption and foster placement
  • Laws restricting transgender people from using gendered facilities in public schools
  • Bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth

Likely due to its unsafe atmosphere, the state is home to the second-fewest same-sex couples per capita, ranking in front of only its neighbor, North Dakota. In our previous ranking, South Dakota took the 45th spot on the list of safest states.

Despite the challenging circumstances, LGBTQ+ advocates are making progress in South Dakota. In early 2024, a transgender advocacy group successfully sued the state of South Dakota for discrimination, receiving a $300,000 reward and forcing the state’s governor to issue an apology letter.

2. Florida – Safety Grade F (47.5)

In the second-worst spot for LGBTQ+ safety comes Florida, which has one of the worst legal environments and ranked dead last in participation rates for law enforcement agency crime reporting. Last year, Florida was the 15th worst state in our ranking, but newer and harsher legislation contributed to its plummeting safety score.

In recent years, Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law has received significant media attention, with much scrutiny surrounding its attempts to prevent students and teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity. A settlement reached in early 2024 clarified some of the specifics around the law that was passed in 2022 and remains in place today.

Additional anti-equality legislation on Florida’s books includes sodomy laws and laws that allow or require intentional misgendering of public school students. In 2023, Governor Ron Desantis signed a bill into law that limited drag shows in the state, which a Florida federal judge later blocked.

3. Wyoming – Safety Grade F (53.5)

Wyoming has few pro-equality laws on its books, a relatively high rate of reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people, and an overall low rate of crime reporting. All of these factors contribute to its low grade for LGBTQ+ safety, which is significantly worse this year. Last year, Wyoming was the 19th-worst state in the country.

The state has only a few pro-equality laws or policies, such as those guaranteeing equal opportunity in adoption and foster care—but this only applies to sexual orientation and not gender identity. Wyoming also has transgender exclusions in its state Medicaid coverage. Overall, while Wyoming does not have as many anti-equality laws as some of the other states toward the bottom of the safety ranking, its dearth of pro-equality laws contributes to its laggard position.

4. Ohio – Safety Grade F (53.7)

Having passed a bill in 2023 modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, drawing condemnation from civil rights groups, it might not be surprising to see Ohio toward the bottom of the LGBTQ+ safety ranking.

The state has one of the highest rates of reported hate crimes against LGBTQ+ individuals in the nation. Like Wyoming, Ohio has very few pro-equality laws on its books, though not so many anti-equality rules. However, the state’s laws include transgender exclusions in Medicaid coverage as well as HIV/AIDS criminalization laws. Since these types of laws regarding healthcare access were among the most important to LGBTQ+ people we surveyed, Ohio’s safety score was deficient.

5. Alabama – Safety Grade F (55.8)

At the fifth-worst spot for LGBTQ+ safety is Alabama, whose especially poor legal environment caused its dismal ranking. In 2024, Alabama considered expanding its own “Don’t Say Gay” law, which prohibits teacher-led discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary schools, but proposals to widen the scope to older students ultimately did not pass.

Other anti-equality laws on Alabama’s books include:

  • Bans on gender-affirming care for transgender youth
  • Religious exemptions for professional training or practice
  • Laws permitting discrimination in adoption or foster placement

Are More Legal Changes for LGBTQ+ Americans on the Horizon?

So far in 2024, in addition to Florida’s affirmation of its “Don’t Say Gay” policy, a handful of states have restricted or affirmed limitations on listing one’s sex on driver’s licenses using a non-gendered category like “X” rather than “F” or “M.” Gender-affirming care for minors has also been under legislative scrutiny in several states. As of the end of April 2024, however, 20 anti-LGBTQ+ bills had passed at the state level, which would put the pace of enacting such bills below last year’s.

Looking ahead to November’s election, polling from progressive think tank Data for Progress indicates LGBTQ+ Americans prefer Joe Biden and the Democrats over the Republicans and their presumptive nominee, Donald Trump. When he was in office from 2016-2020, Trump ushered in several changes considered to be attacks against LGBTQ+ rights, including rescinding the protection of transgender students, permitting discrimination against LGBTQ+ couples related to adoption, and banning trans military members from actively serving. He reportedly said he would ask Congress to pass a bill establishing that the United States recognizes “only two genders.”

Everyone deserves to feel safe at home, and laws can help ensure personal security for all members of our communities. Substantial progress has been made across the grand arc of history for LGBTQ+ Americans, but as our rankings indicate, there is still far from a consensus view across the United States as to key questions and decisions related to equality under the law. For those who have a choice of where to live, these rankings offer a reference point for finding the safest location.

What is the LGBTQ+ State Safety Ranking?: Our Methodology

The Safety Ranking is based on a composite safety score comprising a law score and a hate crime score.

A “law score” was calculated based on pro- and anti-equality laws in each state. The Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) 2023 State Equality Index State Scorecards show a breakdown of each U.S. state’s pro and anti-equality legislation. We surveyed one thousand people who identified themselves as LGBTQ+ to determine how to weigh each of the legislative categories—parenting laws, hate crimes & criminal justice laws, non-discrimination laws, religious refusal & relationship recognition, youth laws, and health & safety laws. We calculated their law scores by adding up the legislation in each state and weighing them according to our survey. This survey was conducted in 2023.

Though we based the scores on more detailed questions in each category, we asked LGBTQ+ Americans generally about laws that promote equality and ones that damage it:

Which type of laws promoting equality are most important for your safety?Percent of respondents
Non-Discrimination laws that forbid discrimination in employment, housing, etc.49%
Health & Safety laws that uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ people to receive healthcare, insurance, etc22%
Youth Laws that protect LGBTQ children through anti-bullying measures, bans on conversion therapy, and sex education13%
Criminal Justice laws that require mandatory reporting of hate crimes, eliminate bias rage or panic defense for criminal acts, prevent police profiling10%
Parenting laws that legally recognize same-sex marriage and parenthood in various scenarios3%
Which type of anti-equality laws are most damaging to your safety?Percent of respondents
Health & Safety laws allowing discrimination in healthcare40%
Youth laws that restrict the rights of LGBTQ+ youth21%
Criminal Justice laws that criminalize HIV/AIDS nondisclosure, consensual sexual activity, etc)17%
Limits on Non-Discrimination laws14%
Parenting laws limiting the ability of LGBTQ+ people in adoption, fostering, etc3%
Religious Refusal laws that permit the denial of services or employment to LGBTQ+ people based on religious belief3%

A “hate crime score” was also calculated based on an analysis of the incidence of hate crimes against any group falling within the LGBTQ+ umbrella. The 2022 FBI Uniform Crime Report’s Hate Crime Statistics Collection was used to count the number of relevant incidents in each state and divide them based on whether they happened in a rural or urban area. Note that the reported incidence of hate crimes versus the actual incidence rate may vary by relevant agency and, therefore, may not be a perfect representation of the actual hate crime landscape. Not every law enforcement agency in each state reported hate crime incidents to the FBI, which also factored into each state’s score.

We then calculated the number of rural incidents per 100k rural population and the number of urban incidents per 100k urban population. We then weighed those incident rates based on the percentage of the state’s populations that lived in rural and urban areas (e.g., urban incidents will be weighted higher in states with a higher proportion of their population living in urban areas), as well as the percentage of law enforcement agencies reporting data to the FBI in each state.

The hate crime score was normalized to the same scale as the law score, then multiplied by the percent of agencies in the state that contributed data to the FBI, penalizing states with low participation. The final LGBTQ+ safety score for each state is the average of these law and hate crime scores, and we assigned letter grades on a logarithmic scale to facilitate understanding of how well each state scored.