CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia has been ranked at number 40 on the annual State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index.
The Index is an annual report from global business network Out Leadership, which works to “create return on equality” by teaching businesses about the impacts of LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion in the workplace.
The report rates the states with a score out of 100 based on five main measures: Legal and Nondiscrimination Protections, Youth and Family Support, Political and Religious Attitudes, Health Access and Safety, and Work Environment and Employment. Out Leadership says each of those categories is broken into four subcategories in which a state could receive a score of 1.00 to 5.00, with five being the highest score for the sub-category.
According to the 2022 report, West Virginia has an overall score of 46.13, down five points from the state’s 2021 score of 51.13. The Mountain State falls just below Kentucky, which ranked at 39th with a score of 46.93. Ohio came in on the list at 31st with a score of 53.43.
The Index ranked New York at the top of the list with a score of 93.67. Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey also ranked high on the list with scores above 90. South Carolina came in 50th with a score of 33.63. Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Dakota and Arkansas round out the rest of the bottom five with ranks of 49-46 respectively.
Out of the Southeast Region on the Index, West Virginia ranks directly in the middle at 6th out of 12 states. In order from highest to lowest score, the states in the region are Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina.
The index also looked at three business markers and how the state’s level of LGBTQ+ inclusiveness could impact business in the state. These markers include the effects of LGBTQ+ protections that exist in a given state, business employee turnover rates due to alleged discriminatory business environments in a given state based on salary data and costs of replacing workers, and how likely LGBTQ+ couples are to feel comfortable marrying, living and working in a community in a given state based on tax data.
Out Leadership says the data sources they use to create the index are reviewed to make sure they are independently verifiable, the most recent, have a “sufficient sample” for statistical analysis, and have available data for each state.
Earlier this year, Fairness West Virginia released study results that showed stigma and discrimination of LGBTQ+ people in the state is estimated to cost the state approximately $50 million each year. At that time, Fairness West Virginia also said that improving disparities in the state could add between $50.9 million and $68.6 million to West Virginia’s economy and that businesses in the state lose approximately $8,474 on average for every employee who leaves the state to find a community that is more LGBTQ-inclusive.
In April 2021, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a bill into law that prevented transgender students from participating in interscholastic athletic events in the Mountain State. That law landed the Mountain State on California’s list of state’s where state-funded travel is restricted and resulted in lawsuits from the ACLU and Department of Justice. In July of 2021, a federal judge blocked that law from being enforced.
Earlier this year, one of the Mountain State’s Congressional representatives, Congresswoman Carol Miller (R-WV) also co-sponsored a bill called the “Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act” that would have prevented transgender women from participating in women and girls’ sports. That bill did not move passed being discharged by the House Committee on Education and Labor.