In 29 states, there are no laws protecting individuals from being fired due to sexual orientation, and black members of the LGBT community are more likely to live in them.
That’s according to a new Williams Institute study titled “The LGBT Divide: A Date Portrait of LGBT People in the Midwestern, Mountain & Southern States.” Researchers from the well-known think tank compared the 29 states lacking anti-discrimination laws (mostly found in the three regions mentioned in the study’s title) with the 21 that have them, and they found that the former have an 18 percent concentration of black LGBT individuals. In states with anti-discrimination laws, there’s only a 12 percent concentration.
As Colorlines.com points out, that means 890,000 black LGBT individuals are at risk of being fired purely on the basis of sexual orientation. And the possibility of losing their jobs isn’t the only struggle they’ll face. As part of the study, researchers used an “LGB social climate index” to measure “social climate,” or the level of social acceptance for LGBT individuals in each state. They found that the 29 non-law states are far less LGBT-friendly than their 21 more progressive counterparts. On average, the non-law states scored 52 on the index, compared to 70 in law states.
Social climate is a good indicator of things like income, health, and food security, and while LGBT individuals across the country face disparities in these and other quality-of-life measures, they seem to fare especially poorly in the Midwest and Mountain states. In the Midwest, for example, 30 percent of LGBT individuals report not having enough money to purchase food. This may come as a surprise, since the media tends to stigmatize the South as being the area of the country most prone to discrimination and intolerance.
If there’s a bright side to the Williams Institute findings, it’s that the data challenges perceptions and brings to light issues that need addressing.
“It is likely that the social climate of each geographic region has its own assets and challenges to achieving legal and lived equality,” the executive summary concludes. “Future research into the South, Midwestern, and Mountain states in more depth might help illuminate such challenges and assets.”