America has become a far friendlier place for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Since 2003, when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, another 35 states and the District of Columbia have done the same.
This shift in attitudes toward LGBT rights is also reflected in a national poll conducted in May by Gallup, which found a record-high 60% of Americans support same-sex marriage, up 5% from last year.
As the legal tide has turned, metropolitan areas have become more accepting of people who identify as LGBT. Still, some cities are more progressive than others, and 14 states still have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.
In honor of Pride Month, NerdWallet crunched the numbers to find the most LGBT-friendly cities in the U.S.
Factors in our analysis
This is the third year NerdWallet has conducted a study on LGBT residents in cities across the U.S. This year, with data from Gallup and other recent studies, our new methodology presents a more detailed picture of LGBT demographics across the nation. See the section at the end of this study for the full methodology.
We ranked the primary city in each of America’s 49 largest metropolitan areas based on the following factors:
- The percentage of the population identifying as LGBT in each metro area.
- LGBT-related hate crimes per 10,000 residents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
- The Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
- The Human Rights Campaign’s number of leaders in LGBT health care equality.
By the numbers
6.2%: The proportion of residents who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in the San Francisco metro area.
116: Philadelphia’s municipal equality index (including bonus points), which tied for the highest in our study. The city scored high for its nondiscrimination and relationship recognition policies, LGBT services and relationship with the community.
9: The number of Seattle hospitals and medical centers that were recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as leaders in LGBT health care equality for their nondiscrimination policies, training in LGBT patient care and visitation rules.
Top 10 LGBT-friendly U.S. cities
1. San Francisco, California
This metro area is at the top of the list when it comes to the percentage of residents who identify as LGBT: 6.2%. San Francisco also boasts the highest score on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index — 116, which is tied with Philadelphia. The Castro District has long been the center of San Francisco’s vibrant LGBT culture and was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the country. It’s home to LGBT-owned businesses, the historic Castro Theatre, the GLBT History Museum, the Pink Triangle Park, the LGBT Walk of Fame, Harvey Milk Plaza and Twin Peaks Tavern, the famed gay bar. The city hosts several LGBT events throughout the year, including the Castro Street Fair, the Pink Saturday street party, the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival and the Dyke March.
2. Portland, Oregon
This vibrant Pacific Northwest metro area counts 5.4% of the population as identifying as LGBT. In addition to its many gay bars and dance parties, the city has one of the country’s longest running drag clubs: Darcelle XV and Company. Portland Pride Festival is held at the city’s Waterfront Park each June and includes a parade of over 150 contingents and floats. LGBT institutions in the city include the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus; Q Center, a nonprofit that supports and celebrates diversity; and Equity Foundation, which grants funds to programs that push equality for the LGBT community. Each year, the city hosts the Portland Queer Film Festival as well as Peacock in the Park, a LGBT variety show.
3. Austin, Texas
Despite its location in a state that bans same-sex marriage, Austin made our list of standouts. At least 5.3% of Austin’s metro population identifies as LGBT. The city has LGBT groups for most everyone, from teens to members of the police department. Each year, the city is host to the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival along with a week of events for Austin Pride. Since Austin is such an active city, it’s no surprise there are many LGBT sports and recreation leagues. The Austin Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce showcases Central Texas’ LGBT businesses and organizations.
4. Providence, Rhode Island
In the Providence metro area, 4.4% of the population identifies as LGBT. When it comes to health care equality, the Human Rights Campaign recognized 2.6 hospitals for every 10,000 LGBT residents in the city, the second-highest score on the list. The area also has Pride RI, Youth Pride Inc., ACLU of Rhode Island and other civil rights organizations promoting equal rights and visibility for the local LGBT community. In June, Providence hosts its annual RI PrideFest, which includes the Illuminated Night Parade. The Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau even has its own “Glambassador,” Haley Star, a YouTube drag queen.
5. Baltimore, Maryland
The Baltimore metro area took the top spot in health care equality. The Human Rights Campaign, which evaluates how equitable and inclusive facilities’ practices are, recognized 3.3 hospitals as meeting their standard for every 10,000 LGBT residents. Baltimore is home to the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore & Central Maryland, which has served the LGBT community in the state for 35 years. There’s also the Baltimore Pride parade, block party, high-heel race and festival that welcomes 30,000 visitors annually. In June, the city hosts the B’more Q-Fest film festival to kick off Pride month. The most LGBT-friendly neighborhoods are Mount Vernon and Hampden, which hosts its own Pride weekend celebration “HonFest.” Hampden is a favorite of filmmaker and gay icon John Waters.
6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
In the Philadelphia metro area, nearly 4% of the population identifies as LGBT. The FBI didn’t receive any reports of hate crimes related to gender identity or sexual orientation in the city for 2013. Philadelphia also tied for the highest score in the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. In Philadelphia, the heart of LGBT nightlife is centered in what is nicknamed “The Gayborhood.” This year, Philadelphia is marking the 50th anniversary of the LGBT civil rights movement with a four-day celebration beginning July 2. The city is home to several civil rights, advocacy and LGBT youth organizations including the Bread & Roses Community Fund, the Spruce Foundation and the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative.
7. Seattle, Washington
About 4.8% of all residents in the Seattle metro area identify as LGBT. The city received one of the highest Human Rights Index scores of all of our cities at 113. Plus, the Human Rights Campaign recognized nine of Seattle’s hospitals and medical centers as leaders in health care equality. Seattle is home to PrideFest, the largest free Pride festival in the country, which attracts over 130,000 attendees annually. The city boasts several LGBT health care, mental health, anti-discrimination, labor and civil rights organizations. The Seattle LGBT Commission advises the city about community issues and policies.
8. Salt Lake City, Utah
Utah is known as a conservative state with deep Mormon roots, but Salt Lake City has often been a bastion of liberalism and progressiveness. The city hosts an annual Pride parade and festival, and it is home to the Utah Pride Center. The city approved an ordinance in 2009 to protect LGBT residents from housing and employment discrimination. Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a similar bill called the “Utah compromise.” Both the Salt Lake City ordinance and the state legislation were endorsed by the most powerful religious presence in the state: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the Salt Lake City metro area, about 9,000 residents identify as LGBT out of a population of just over 191,000.
9. Los Angeles, California
The City of Angels boasts the country’s largest LGBT recreational sports league: Varsity Gay League. The Southern California city is also the central hotspot for Equality California, the state’s premier LGBT civil rights organization. In the Los Angeles metro area, the LGBT population is 4.6% of residents. In Los Angeles, you’ll find the LA Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, several civil rights organizations as well as youth, family and elderly LGBT support services.
10. Orlando, Florida
In the Orlando metro area, over 4% of the population is LGBT. The Florida city is home to LGBT professional groups, youth programs and a chamber of commerce — the Metropolitan Business Association Orlando — which hosts networking events along with its Pride in Business Awards event annually. Orlando is also the primary destination because of The Center, the LGBT Community Center of Central Florida, which conducts some of the largest HIV testing in the state. Finally, Orlando wouldn’t be the vibrant city it is without its thriving LGBT nightlife scene.
Top 20 LGBT-friendly U.S. cities
|Rank||City||Residents who identify as LGBT in the metro area||Hate crimes related to gender identity or sexual orientation per 10,000 LGBT residents in 2013||Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index score including bonus points||Hospitals recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as leaders in health care equality per 10,000 LGBT residents||Score|
|1||San Francisco, California||6.2%||2.5||116||0.6||79.6|
|4||Providence, Rhode Island||4.4%||0.0||101||2.6||75.4|
|8||Salt Lake City, Utah||4.7%||1.1||87||1.1||66.6|
|9||Los Angeles, California||4.6%||2.0||101||0.4||65.9|
|12||New Orleans, Louisiana||5.1%||2.6||83||0.5||63.4|
|15||New York City, New York||4.0%||3.0||113||0.4||60.8|
|16||San Diego, California||3.9%||2.3||105||0.8||60.2|
The overall score for each city was calculated based on the following metrics:
- The percent of residents within the city’s metro area identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The data came from Gallup and was based on a survey of America’s 50 largest metro areas from 2012 to 2014. This was 30% of a city’s total score.
- The number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity in a city in 2013 per 10,000 LGBT residents. The information comes from the FBI Hate Crime Statistics, which relies on police departments to report local data. This was 20% of a city’s total score.
- The Human Rights Campaign’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index score. This was 35% of a city’s total score.
- The number of hospitals recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as leaders in LGBT health care equality in the city per 10,000 LGBT residents. This was 15% of a city’s total score.
NerdWallet staff writer Anna Helhoski contributed to this article.
Castro Theatre in San Francisco, California, image via iStock; Infographic by Brian Yee.