WINCHESTER — Virginia ranked No. 16 in a nationwide LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index published by Out Leadership, a global LGBTQ+ business network.

In coordination with Pride Month, the index gives states a score out of 100 points based on markers assessing LGBTQ+ individuals' experiences across five categories — legal and nondiscrimination protections; youth and family support; political and religious attitudes; health access and safety, and work environment and employment. Those categories are ranked on a scale of 20 points.

Virginia scored 81.9. That included a score of 20 in legal and nondiscrimination protection; 17 in youth and family support; 15.4 in political and religious attitudes; 16.5 in health access and safety, and 14 in work environment and employment.

Though not mentioned in a study related to the index, Winchester’s Hideaway Cafe, owned by Victoria Kidd, won the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Dream Big Awards in the LGBTQ-owned business category in 2021.

According to the study, 3.9% of Virginians identify as LGBTQ+.

“When LGBTQ+ employees don't feel welcome at work, they're less likely to stay, and employee turnover is a drag on the state economy and business competitiveness,” the study states.

The study states that it costs an average of $10,796 to replace an employee and up to $486,800 to replace senior executives in Virginia. It adds that businesses, therefore, have strong incentives to foster inclusive workplaces. The study also states that 54% of people say they’re more likely to choose an LGBTQ+ inclusive brand over a competitor — “which is why it’s important that Virginia continue to foster a business environment where being inclusive is supported.”

The study notes that there is a "regressive attitude" in Virginia toward transgender people regarding health care and hate crime protections. It adds that treating transgender people unequally "makes us look complicit if we choose to do business in Viginia."

While the 2022 index showed significant positive steps for some states, Out Leadership says that some states fell behind due to "coordinated legislative pushback" against LGBTQ+ rights at the state level.

The largest changes in scores between 2021 and 2022 resulted from changes in legal and nondiscrimination protections as well as youth and family support, the organization said.

The nationwide average score was 64.61 out of 100, a slight increase on last year’s 64.03.

The top 10 states are New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Maine, Illinois, Oregon, California and Colorado. The bottom 10 states are Montana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.

Out Leadership founder and CEO Todd Sears says the index "is a living roadmap" of "places where we must be both reactive and proactive.

“While the top ranked states for LGBTQ+ equality broadly increased in score, the bottom ranked states decreased in score or remained stagnant," Sears said. "This signals a widening gap across the country between the ideology of equality and the tactics used to achieve or dismantle it. All of these shifts, for better and worse, are happening in a country that has never been more polarized."

— Contact Matt Welch at mwelch@winchesterstar.com

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