Most Gay-Friendly Cities

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Happy Pride Month!  To celebrate, NerdWallet crunched the numbers to put together a list of the most gay-friendly cities based on municipal laws, community and peer support, and safety and tolerance.  The cities listed fulfill the following three requirements:

  1. Do the laws support gay residents?  We used the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index to assess the municipal laws affecting LGBT residents.  The index measures the equality of each city’s non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment practices, city services, law enforcement and municipality leadership.
  2. Is there a LGBT community and can you find peer support?  We included the percentage of same-sex households in the region from the U.S. Census.
  3. Is the community safe and tolerant toward gays?  We included the number of hate crimes for sexual orientation per 100,000 residents in our overall score.

Most Gay-Friendly Cities

1.    Palm Springs, CA

Palm Springs is known as a hotspot for gay tourism, but the city has a thriving year-round LGBT culture for residents as well.  A whopping 8.6% of households consist of same-sex partners. The city’s yearly Pride festival is one of the community’s most popular events, and this two-day festival celebrates the gay rights movement’s history of activism.

2.    San Francisco, CA

Known for its diversity and tolerance, the Bay Area is home to a large gay population and a thriving gay culture.  San Francisco’s historic Castro District has a strong history in the gay rights movement, and the area maintains several historical landmarks, such as the Castro Theater and Harvey Milk Square, a tribute to the influential activist and hate crime victim.  San Francisco is the birthplace of many celebrated gay activists and comedians, including Margaret Cho and B.D. Wong, as well as home to gay rights activist and mayor Gavin Newsom.

3.    Seattle, WA

Seattle’s LGBT hub, Capitol Hill, is the center of the city’s gay culture, housing many gay bars and businesses.  In Seattle, gay marriage is legal, and the city has experience rapid growth in the population of LGBT families.  Organizations like Families Like Ours help Washington couples adopt and foster children.

4.    Long Beach, CA

Businesspeople will find ample support with the Long Beach Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, which offers networking events and collaborative communities.  Additionally, The Long Beach Pride Parade is an incredibly popular community event, attracting 80,000 participants each year.

5.    Cambridge, MA

The People’s Republic of Cambridge has zero sexual orientation-related hate crimes in 2011, making this a safe and tolerant area for gay residents.  Cambridge is the residence of gay rights activist and Senator Elizabeth Warren, and the state was the first to legalize same-sex marriage.

6.    Los Angeles, CA

West Hollywood is the area’s premiere gay neighborhood, with plenty of restaurants and bars.  LGBT residents can check out the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center for resources.  The LA Pride Parade attracts 400,000 attendees every year.

7.    Portland, OR

Portland’s large gay population has led to a plethora of annual LGBT festivals, including the Portland Queer Music Festival, the Portland Latino Gay Pride Parade, and the Portland Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.  Portland has special historic significance as well.  The city was the first in Oregon to adopt civil rights protections for gay residents

8.    Philadelphia, PA

The City of Brotherly Love lives up to its name.  This tolerant, gay-friendly city is supportive of the gay community.  To supplement Philadelphia’s gay tourism industry, Temple University has partnered with the Gay Tourism Caucus to create a Gay Sensitivity Training for professionals in the tourism industry.

9.    San Diego, CA

Hillcrest, San Diego’s biggest gay neighborhood, boasts plenty of local-owned cafes, bars and independent stores.  Plus, LGBT residents can find resources and support at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, the nation’s second oldest and third largest LGBT community center.  The Greater San Diego Business Association, the Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce provides support and community for gay entrepreneurs and small business owners as well.

10.  New York, NY

New York City is a well-known epicenter of gay culture, with plenty of gay bars, gay theater and a rich and diverse arts culture.  West Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen and East Village all have thriving gay communities.  The Center, a LGBT community center, is an incredible resource for LGBT residents as well as an advocacy center.  New York City has allowed same-sex marriage since the summer of 2011.  New York was the birthplace of gay actors Cynthia Nixon and Anthony Perkins as well as singer and gay rights activist Cyndi Lauper.

Rank City Equality index Percentage of households that are same-sex partners # gay hate crimes per 100,000 residents Overall gay friendliness score
1 Palm Springs, CA 95 8.60% 11.1 72
2 San Francisco, CA 100 2.60% 2.6 69.4
3 Seattle, WA 100 1.80% 1 69.3
4 Long Beach, CA 100 1.40% 0.6 68.8
5 Cambridge, MA 100 1.10% 0 68.8
6 Los Angeles, CA 100 0.80% 0 68.1
7 Portland, OR 100 2.00% 2.7 68
8 Philadelphia, PA 100 0.60% 0 67.7
9 San Diego, CA 100 1.10% 1.4 67.4
10 New York, NY 100 0.70% 0.8 67.1
11 St. Louis, MO 100 1.00% 1.6 67
12 Chicago, IL 97 0.80% 0.1 67
13 Denver, CO 97 1.30% 2 66.3
14 Berkeley, CA 95 1.50% 1.8 66.2
15 Albany, NY 95 1.00% 1 65.9
16 Northampton, MA 64 5.40% 0 65.8
17 Hartford, CT 95 0.70% 0.8 65.5
18 Madison, WI 95 1.30% 2.1 65.4
19 Austin, TX 91 0.90% 0.1 65.2
20 Rochester, NY 89 1.10% 0 65.1

Methodology:

The overall score was compiled from the following data:

  1. Municipal Equality Index from the Human Rights Campaign
  2. Percent unmarried same-sex households from the Census (dataset S1101)
  3. Number of sexual orientation-related hate crimes divided by the population from the FBI Crime Statistics

88 of the biggest U.S. cities were included in this analysis