HRC’s State Equality Index elicits reactions from LGBTQ media

by Joe Siegel

The 2023 Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) State Equality Index (SEI) is a comprehensive state-by-state report that provides a review of statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ people and their families. The SEI rates all 50 states plus Washington, D.C., in six areas of law and assigns the states to one of four categories.

For the SEI, HRC worked with the Equality Federation, which is a network of state-based LGBTQ advocacy organizations, to determine the LGBTQ rights records of all 50 states and D.C. That involved examining nine categories including non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, hate-crimes statutes, laws affecting young people and healthcare access and other factors.

Florida, for example, scored well in four categories (including employment and housing), but poorly in five categories (including education and hate crimes).

“It is no secret that the Florida state government not only neglects its LGBTQ+ citizens, it actively campaigns and legislates against them,” said Rick Todd, owner and publisher of Orlando’s Watermark. “I feel like queer Floridians are on the frontline of this battle and this scorecard identifies where we need the most help. We need not only our queer siblings to rise up for change, but for those that support us to join us in this fight to see real progress take over this state.”

In Ohio, the Buckeye Flame ran a story announcing, “Ohio joins 22 other states in the lowest-rated category.”

“For Ohio, the SEI provides a direct link between what happens in the Columbus Statehouse and both the lived experience of LGBTQ+ Ohioans as well as those LGBTQ+ individuals and families who might be considering relocating to this state,” said Ken Schneck, editor of the Buckeye Flame, based in the Cleveland area. “With a host more anti-LGBTQ+ bills on the table — including the forced outing of LGBTQ+ youth, the banning of public drag and the segregation of restrooms — it does not look like Ohio is headed in a direction that would increase its SEI score.

“That said, LGBTQ+ advocates are fighting across the state to bring LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination protections to their local communities, even if it doesn’t currently appear like those will be achieved statewide.”

Oklahoma is another state that placed in the SEI’s lowest-rated category.

Robin Dorner, editor in chief of Oklahoma City’s The Gayly

“The information … is hard to look at when you fight LGBTQ+ discrimination daily like we do at The Gayly,” said Robin Dorner, editor in chief of The Gayly, based in Oklahoma City. “In reviewing this data, it is no surprise to see that Oklahoma is a breeding ground for anti-LGBTQ+ hate-motivated actions. Our laws must change before we see true progress toward full equality in our state.”

Twenty states plus D.C. — the same number as last year — ranked in the highest-rated category, “Working Toward Innovative Equality.” Those states were, in order of ranking: California, Maine, New York, Colorado, Nevada, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Washington, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, New Mexico and Virginia.

Five states fell in the next category, “Solidifying Equality”: Michigan, Alaska, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Pennsylvania. Two were in the third category “Building Equality”: Utah and Arizona.

Twenty-three states were ranked in the lowest-rated category, “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality.” Those states were Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Missouri, West Virginia, North Carolina, Montana, Georgia, Florida, Wyoming, Louisiana, Texas, Idaho, South Carolina, Mississippi, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama.

“More than 30 states introduced gender-affirming care bans during the 2023 legislative session, meaning half of all transgender youth in the U.S. were at risk of losing access to gender-affirming care,” reporter Victoria Brownworth wrote in the Philadelphia Gay News. “In some states, laws have also made it more difficult for adults to access care as well, particularly through bans on public funds for healthcare.

“The SEI reports that in 2023, 253 pro-equality bills were introduced in state legislatures around the country. Of those, 50 were signed into law.”

For the full report, go to

Volume 25
Issue 12

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