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How friendly is Delaware to the LGBTQ+ community? New report ranks Delaware’s inclusivity




Out Leadership’s 2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index was recently released, and while Delaware has made significant progress in terms of LGBTQ+ inclusivity in recent years, there’s still more work to be done.  

In its sixth year, Out Leadership’s report gauges the business climate for LGBTQ+ people by using a variety of factors to rank LGBTQ+ inclusivity in each state to determine where individuals in the community can live and work in welcoming atmospheres and the level of hardship and discrimination queer communities face.

“Time and again, our research has demonstrated that businesses that operate in LGBTQ+-friendly environments benefit from stronger talent pools, see increased employee satisfaction and productivity, and enjoy robust customer loyalty. Put simply, inclusive states build strong economies,” said Todd Sears, founder and CEO of Out Leadership 

According to Out Leadership, discrimination against LGBTQ+ people “creates serious challenges for talent mobility, retention and development — and creates brand risk.” The organization’s annual index serves to highlight gaps in inclusivity and show where states can work to better protect queer individuals and subsequently increase best practices for businesses. 

“As we enter an election year, the political and cultural environment in the United States has become increasingly polarized with LGBTQ+-friendly states becoming increasingly inclusive while the worst states for equality become ever more hostile to equality and freedom,” said Sears. “For the second year in a row, the average Out Leadership LGBTQ+ Business Climate Score across has declined, and for the third year running more states have become less friendly to LGBTQ+ Americans — an incredibly dangerous trend.” 

2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index methodology, scoring 

The 2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index ranks all 50 U.S. states across the five categories of legal and nondiscrimination protections, youth and family support, political and religious attitudes, health access and safety and work environment and employment, which are also measured in each state. Each of the five sections is totaled up to 20 points and accounts for 1/5 of the index total, resulting in a final score out of 100 when combined. More information about what is assessed in each section can be found by viewing the full report or visiting

As a note, Out Leadership discloses that some of the analysis in the report and the accompanying briefs for each state may include legislative updates that occurred after April 15, given the fluctuating nature of public policy, and are not reflected in the scores provided by the data at that time.  

National overview of LGBTQ+ trends 

The 2024 State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index found that LGBTQ+ equality is decreasing across the U.S. for the second year in a row. The average score of all 50 states in 2024 is 62.77, a 1.12% decrease from 63.48 in 2023. Out Leadership cites anti-trans legislation as a major factor for the decline in scores, with over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills already introduced in 40 states in 2024 alone, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.  

The most significant changes in scores for states between 2023 and 2024 were driven by legal and nondiscrimination protections, youth and family support and political and religious attitudes. States with the largest score increases – like Michigan, Georgia and Oregon — adopted pro-LGBTQ+ legislation and saw elected officials standing up for LGBTQ+ rights. States with decreased scores — like Florida, Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina — were impeded by ongoing anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.  

Out Leadership’s research shows that polarization across the nation continues to expand as states that exemplify LGBTQ+ equality continue to thrive and states that are hostile toward queer rights and issues continue to jeopardize the community’s ability to live and work, the organization said.  

According to the 2024 index, New York is the highest-ranking state in LGBTQ+ equality for the third year in a row with a score of 93.67. Arkansas is the lowest-ranking state with a score of 27, the lowest score received by a state in the index’s six-year history.  

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LGBTQ+ trends in the Northeast 

While Delaware is more progressive compared with other states, its LGBTQ+ protections compared to other regional states are still lacking.

Rankings for states in the Northeast are as follows: 

  • New York at No. 1 with 93.67 
  • Connecticut at No. 2 with 93.27 
  • Massachusetts at No. 3 with 92  
  • New Jersey at No. 4 with 90 
  • Vermont at No. 5 with 89.50  
  • Maine at No. 6 with 88.67 
  • Rhode Island at No. 7 with 85.70 
  • Maryland at No. 8 with 82.83 
  • New Hampshire at No. 9 78.33 
  • Delaware at No. 10 with 72.43  
  • Pennsylvania at No. 11 with 66.27 

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Out Leadership found that the Northeast has the lowest percentage of those who are out at work (49.6%). LGBTQ+ workers in urban environments are more comfortable sharing their personal lives than the same demographic in the rest of the country. Workers in this region are more likely to engage in or hear negative conversations about LGBTQ+ people at work, with non-LGBTQ+ people being 23% more likely to report observing or experiencing negative conversations about the queer community compared to the nation.  

More Northeast outcomes include: 

  • Workers in this region are the least likely to hear LGBTQ+ negativity from state leadership. They are 61% less likely to report that leadership in their state talks about LGBTQ+ in predominantly negative terms.  
  • LGBTQ+ people and allies living in rural areas are reported to care the least about diverse teams when looking for jobs, 49% less likely than nationwide.  
  • Those in the Northeast are 20% more likely to list “supporting LGBTQ+ Pride celebrations” as one of their top three ways businesses can demonstrate their support for the community. 

LGBTQ+ trends in Delaware 

Delaware’s score of 72.43 out of 100 makes the First State a low-risk state out of the five categories of no risk, low risk, moderate risk, notable risk and high risk.  

Delaware scores for each of the five sections are: 

  • An 18 out of 20 for the legal and nondiscrimination protection section, placing it in the no-risk category 
  • A 16.43 for the youth and family support section, placing it in the low-risk category 
  • A 16 for the political and religious attitudes section, placing it in the low-risk category  
  • A 15 for the health access and safety section, placing it in the low-risk category  
  • A 7 for the work environment and employment section, placing it in the notable-risk category 

Out Leadership includes a section titled “impact of LGBTQ+ discrimination on business talent” for each state. Delaware results are as follows:  

  • There is no brand risk incurred by companies doing business in Delaware, which has strong LGBTQ+ protections and a positive reputation for equality 
  • There is no client risk, meaning there is no reason to believe that LGBTQ+ or strong ally clients would pull business from companies in Delaware, where pro-LGBTQ+ state leaders regularly speak out against discrimination. 
  • There is a low risk when it comes to talent. Delaware has comprehensive hate crime and nondiscrimination protections, along with favorable laws surrounding adoption and surrogacy, but there “relatively high” levels of reported workplace harassment, which could make LGBTQ+ professionals reconsidering working in the state 
  • There is no marketing risk when it comes to affirming and marketing to the LGBTQ+ community in Delaware due to Delawareans favoring LGBTQ+ rights and protections 
  • There is no future risk in that “Delaware has no recent history of negative bills filed, and we would not expect that to change in the foreseeable future,” said Out Leadership 

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Out Leadership reports that 7.5% of Delaware residents identify as LGBTQ+, which is a conservative personal income of $2.8 billion that businesses “can’t afford to ignore.” The report adds that it costs companies an average of $10,440 to replace an employee in Delaware, which is only more incentive to make LGBTQ+ employees feel welcome at work, in turn attracting more top LGBTQ+ talent.  

If Delaware strengthened the enforcement of discrimination laws, one estimate suggests that Delaware’s economy could increase by 3%, or $2.1 billion. Millennial and Gen Z consumers prefer to do business with companies with LGBTQ+-friendly advertising and policies, with 54% saying they’re more likely to choose an LGBTQ+-inclusive brand over a competitor.  

As of 2017, a poll found that 58% of Delawareans supported same-sex marriage, which Delaware was the 11th state to legalize and did so two years before the case of Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationally. The same poll found that 68% of Delaware residents supported an anti-discrimination law covering gender identity and sexual orientation, while 21% of residents were opposed. In situations of a religious-based refusal to serve LGBTQ+ people, 60% of respondents were opposed to the practice while 28% were in favor of it.  

The current legal status of LGBTQ+ people in Delaware 

The following information details how LGBTQ+ people are protected by law in Delaware and shows where there is room for improvement and stronger protections. 

The legal status of the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in Delaware: 

  • Delaware has a comprehensive nondiscrimination law inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, which applies to employment, insurance, public accommodations, housing and public works contracts 
  • The state recently outlawed the panic defense policy, which seeks to justify a defendant’s actions based on their discomfort with LGBTQ+ people or perceived LGBTQ+ identity 
  • Anti-bullying and harassment laws protect LGBTQ+ students 
  • Delaware law allows any unmarried adult or married couple to petition a court for adoption of a child; second parent adoption is only permitted if you are married. Secular adoption agencies cannot decline prospective parents based on religious beliefs, although religious institutions may claim an exemption. Surrogacy contracts are legal for same-sex couples 
  • Delaware’s hate crime laws have specified sexual orientation as a protected class since 2001, and gender identity since 2013 
  • The state banned conversion therapy for minors in 2018, making Delaware the 15th state to do so 

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The legal status of the transgender community in Delaware:  

  • Delaware requires an affidavit from a medical or mental health professional to amend a birth certificate, which must state that the applicant has had surgical, psychological, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for gender transitioning. Neither name change nor surgery are required.  
  • If someone wanting to amend the gender marker on a driver’s license is also planning on changing their name, the latter must be completed first. A licensed provider must sign a specific request form for the gender marker change.  
  • Delaware bans insurance exclusions for transgender healthcare and requires insurance to cover gender affirmation surgery. 

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