Florida has become the right-wing test market for extremist policies and anti-LGBTQ attacks—and we are the resistance.Learn More
In 2022, the Alabama Legislature passed and Governor Kay Ivey signed the most anti-transgender legislative package in history into law. This has created an untenable environment for our community in Alabama.Learn More
The collaborative efforts of state and local advocates accelerated LGBTQ+ inclusive state laws and policies this year. At the same time, our partners simultaneously defended against the harms of anti-equality forces. Take a closer look at what happened during this legislative session in these State Spotlights.
The SEI scorecards are meant to assess the presence of statewide laws, policies, and court decisions that affect LGBTQ+ equality, either positively or negatively. Research for this project was conducted by the SEI team — a group of staff attorneys, pro bono attorneys and law fellows — based on the criteria for each law and policy item, and compiled into a sample scorecard for each state. The data was drawn from publicly available sources. The draft scorecards were provided to members of the Equality Federation, and these organizations were offered an opportunity to review the scorecards, ask any questions, give input, and provide additional sources for the SEI team to consider. These assessments were considered by the SEI team and a final scorecard for each state was developed.
For each of the category descriptions, the SEI team made determinations on whether laws, administrative policies, or court decisions would qualify for each state law and policy item based on the nature of the item, typical statewide laws and policies concerning that item, and our determination about best practices for that item.
Laws refer to statewide statutes, either passed through the state’s legislative process or through referendum. Administrative regulations and policies refer to agency guidance or documented policies from a state executive agency that has a legal effect (i.e., the policy is not merely aspirational – it is enforceable). The nature of these agency regulations and policies can vary widely based on the nature of the category, the state agency, and the administrative process in that state. Court decisions refer to final rulings by a relevant state or federal court with a statewide jurisdiction and for which the decision is in effect.
While the SEI examines statewide laws and policies that affect LGBTQ+ equality, it is important to recognize the substantial and growing role that municipal law has on LGBTQ+ equality across the country. In many states with a more difficult political climate for LGBTQ+ equality, advocates may focus on municipal protections rather than statewide law and policy for strategic reasons. Passage of municipal protections can serve to protect a large population of LGBTQ+ people immediately, whereas passage of statewide protections may not be feasible for years, if at all. Also, passage of municipal protections can facilitate passage of statewide laws and policies in several ways. For example, it can show that the potential negative outcomes opponents use to block protections for LGBTQ+ people are demonstrably false, it empowers local advocates to become more involved, and it helps convince lawmakers that protections in their districts should be passed at the state level.
For a nationwide evaluation of municipal law, policies and services affecting LGBTQ+ equality, please see the Municipal Equality Index, available at hrc.org/mei.
The SEI is an assessment of the statewide laws and policies which affect LGBTQ+ equality in each state and the District of Columbia. It is a roadmap for the types of state laws and policies that advocates can work toward to make positive change and a marker by which we can measure the steady passage of statewide laws and policies affecting LGBTQ+ equality. However, the SEI does not rank states in terms of LGBTQ+ equality, nor is it an assessment of the culturally friendliest states for LGBTQ+ people to live.
Moreover, the SEI is not able to measure the implementation of laws, policies, or court cases that affect LGBTQ+ equality, which can have a very real impact on the day-to-day lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people. While the SEI looks at the presence or absence of statewide laws and policies, it is impossible to determine the extent to which those laws are actively enforced or whether relevant training occurs. In fact, enforcement may vary considerably between states and municipalities within a state. Many municipalities will have laws and policies that go beyond the basic requirements of statewide law, creating additional protections in areas such as non-discrimination or safe schools.
Finally, the SEI is not an evaluation of statewide advocacy efforts. We recognize that advocacy for statewide laws and policies concerning LGBTQ+ equality will vary drastically in different regions, based on state politics, historical context, state legislative issues, and countless other factors. For example, in some regions it may be a major victory for advocates to stop negative legislation, while in other states, such legislation has no real chance of passing. The SEI strives to present a balanced view of the types of advocacy that occurs in different states around the country, as well as a factual record of the presence of statewide laws and policies that positively or negatively affect LGBTQ+ equality.
The strength of the state-based LGBTQ+ movement is critical to elevate our representation, visibility and equality across the country. As we look to the next legislative session, the State Equality Index should serve as a recognition of how far we have come and how much we have yet to achieve.