Protect Rural LGBTQ+ Residents


Although approximately 2.9 to 3.8 million[1] LGBTQ+[2] (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) people live in rural communities in the United States, LGBTQ+ residents in rural areas experience less structural support, fewer legal protections, and overall are subject to more discriminatory policies than their urban and/or non-LGBTQ+ counterparts.[3]

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State Policy Priorities

  • Reject anti-LGBTQ+ bills, including those regulating use of bathrooms, sports participation, and health care and those allowing denial of services to LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • Include sexual orientation and gender identity in state antidiscrimination laws and protections for LGBTQ+ youth and students.
  • Include sexual orientation and gender identity in hate crime law and ban the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense.
  • Ban “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ minors.
  • Create cross-sector/agency entities to proactively advise on equitable policies for LGBTQ+ communities.

State Examples

  • Hawaii (2018 HI HB 1489) enacted a bill to establish state school nondiscrimination protections for students on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation in any educational program or activity.
  • In New Mexico (2019 NM SB 288), legislators enacted a comprehensive anti-bullying law that provides protections for students against bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Vermont (2021 VT HB 128) and Colorado (2020 CO HB 1307) have banned the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense.
  • Virginia (2020 VA HB 276) and Georgia (2020 GA HB 426) have broadened their hate crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • Nebraska (2021 NE LB 231), Pennsylvania (2021 PA HB 729), and Wisconsin (2021 WI AB 312), are exploring paths to limit or fully ban “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ+ minors.
  • Georgia (2021 GA SB 164) is considering steps to decriminalize HIV, while Maine (2021 ME LD 1115) has expanded access to HIV-prevention drugs.
  • States including Kentucky (2022 KY Bill Request 119) and Iowa (2021 IA HF 376) are considering including LGBTQ+ identities in school curricula.
  • Vermont (2021 VT HB 210) formed a Health Equity Advisory Commission, and Minnesota (2021 MN HF 1924) proposed a Council on LGBTQI Minnesotans.


Inspired? Ready to dig in on these issues with your rural neighbors? Our practical communications toolkits will help you connect with new communities through common values. The toolkits provide examples on narrative framing, press release templates, sample talking points, and more. 

Click here for the communications toolkit on Providing Healthcare for All.

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