Though it lacks the robust legal protections of a metropolis like Atlanta, this tourist town in the Appalachian foothills has an active LGBTQ community.
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With one of the highest concentrations of same-sex households in the state, tiny Blue Ridge has its own PFLAG chapter, an Independence Day parade complete with a marching band in drag, and a handful of churches that buck Bible Belt orthodoxy by embracing faithful of all orientations and gender identities. Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus. A mix of safety and entertainment in the middle of red country Population: A pro-gay movement has been active here for nearly a century. Despite its majority Republican legislature and a heavy Mormon population, Idaho boasts 13 cities with non-discrimination ordinances in place.
The state capital harbors the most progressive enclave; its gay community center dates to , and influxes of Cascadians getting priced out of the West Coast has only fed the momentum. Steve Martin, the regional development organizer for Idaho's Pride Foundation , fills in the rest: Most high schools here, and even at least one junior high, have a gay-straight alliance club.
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Coeur d'Alene. The capital of Mike Pence's home state calls BS on "religious freedom. A business community vocal in its support for civil rights. When then-Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act RFRA into law in , giving bigoted business owners legal cover to discriminate against anyone they perceived might be gay, the Indy community pushed back. All along Massachusetts Ave -- the heart of the "gayborhood" -- and throughout the city, shops display stickers that promise "This Business Serves Everyone," thanks to an initiative called Open for Service , a nationwide directory of inclusive stores, churches, and schools.
About three-quarters of the businesses along Mass Ave are gay-owned, says Freedom Indiana's Chris Paulsen, and each year Indy Pride draws some 50, marchers down the formerly depressed thoroughfare, where condos now sell for millions. The most progressive town in a surprisingly progressive state Population: Its anti-discrimination measures go back to Here's trivia that'll win you a bar bet: The first Midwestern state to legalize gay marriage?
Iowa, via a state court decision. And out in front of this pioneering state is Iowa City. It's just got a good legacy of advancement and it's been ahead of the curve for the LGBT movement. The town's progressive nature is intertwined with its largest employer, the University of Iowa. The college was among the first to offer benefits to its staffers' partners. Incoming freshmen can choose both their preferred name and gender for their student record, and transgender students are housed according to their preferred gender. And while the town only has one gay bar in Studio 13, it has bragging rights as the launch stage for RuPaul's Drag Race alumna Sasha Belle.
Says Hoffman-Zinnel: A conservative metropolis gets a more progressive police presence.
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Wichita lacks the non-discrimination ordinances that smaller, more liberal counterparts around the state have passed. At least Kansas' biggest city may be the next best thing. Kim Davis' hometown fights back. Though liberal Louisville was one of the first Southern cities to pass an inclusive non-discrimination fairness ordinance, tiny Morehead earns its spot for opposing Davis' headline-making bigotry.
In , county clerk Kim Davis put Morehead on the map by refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision that legalized gay marriage nationwide. In response, a few hundred residents in the little town took to the streets , chanting, "Gay or straight, black or white, marriage is an equal right. It shouldn't be so shocking; a few years prior, the town quietly became the sixth city in Kentucky to pass a fairness ordinance. Louisville, Lexington, Vicco, Midway. A shining star in the South Population: Though there are a handful of gay Mardi Gras krewes, Southern Decadence is arguably the bigger party, attracting up to , revelers every Labor Day weekend.
Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge. The Midwest's best, brightest gay vacation destination Population: Michigan has plenty of pockets of liberal progressivism, but these tiny Lake Michigan towns have the Midwest's largest gay and lesbian resort. While that might be a stretch, the charming lakeside villages have a welcoming vibe that dates back almost a century, when the Art Institute of Chicago ushered in a bohemian air by establishing its summer school of painting on the Ox-Bow Lagoon.
Today, vacationers make the two-hour trek from Chicago to spend a weekend at the Dunes Resort , which claims to be the Midwest's largest LGBTQ getaway, catering primarily to men, aside from three women's weekends each year. Those who make their home here year-round are also protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation by a municipal fairness ordinance.
A welcoming oasis in a gay-unfriendly state Population: If Mississippi legislators had their way, gay sex, gay adoption, and gay marriage would all be illegal. They're not -- only because federal court decisions have superseded the discrimination that locals officials sought to codify.
Jackson, though, is a bright spot. There is charm here, even if it has limits. Magnolia, which just passed its own anti-discrimination measures. Simultaneously dead center on the map of America and the battle for transgender rights Population: Strong city anti-discrimination laws and a wealth of resources for transgender people.
This January, 9-year-old Avery Jackson became the first transgender subject to grace the cover of National Geographic. Because of Avery, her mother, Debi, founded Kansas City-based trans-parenting. Locally, with resources like TransasCity. A supportive LGBTQ environment has been fostered over the last 20 years by a mix of local politicians and business leaders reaching out to the queer community.
Louis, Columbia. Ground zero for organizers in a state with a middling civil rights record Population: David Herrera will be the first one to tell you Missoula's nightlife could improve. But like so many of these entries, what Missoula does have is the bedrock of a progressive liberal arts school like the University of Montana that gives the mid-sized town a permanent, if shifting community of civic-minded folk. They elected leaders to make Missoula the first city in Montana to pass municipal anti-discrimination laws as protections at the state level continue to flounder, and who founded the Western Montana LGTB Community Center as a local hub for LGTB groups a full 15 years before Great Falls opened its own last year.
Great Falls, Billings. A well-educated and livable small city Population: Even the Baptist church is gay-friendly. You mess with trans people, you mess with everyone. Of the Carolina cities Human Rights Campaign rated last year, this one ranked highest for gay-friendliness though for some reason, they didn't rate Asheville. A University of North Carolina campus gives the place life, plus happening bars like Chemistry Nightclub and The Q , a hang with the feel of a neighborhood bar. Chapel Hill, Charlotte. A post shared by Jeremy jeremyinomaha. Where city and business leaders work together to get statewide protections Population: The only city in Nebraska with an ordinance barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In April , the Omaha City Council voted to approve an ordinance extending city anti-discrimination laws to cover gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender residents. No small victory in a state where no other city has anti-discrimination laws on the books, and where attempts to pass state-level legislation is on its fourth attempt since as lawmakers debate the latest version. Or just hang out at the Max and hit up any of the four, count them four , bars hosted in this single gay mega-pub. Honorable mention: This early adopter of non-discrimination ordinances has an epic Pride festival more than 10 years running.
Fargo gets the edge over Grand Forks, the first North Dakota city to pass anti-discrimination ordinances. And while there are no avowed gay bars in the city, the city is calmly out. Ken Story, who runs the brick-and-mortar LGBTQ center in town, says the activist events have gotten ever more political lately.
Grand Forks. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Zanesville. Holiday meals, welcome to all, are hosted out of a city looking to change hearts and minds. Meanwhile, Tulsa boasts the seventh-largest center in the world. Josh, a volunteer with Oklahomans for Equality , says that the center has helped spread awareness and love while fighting for gay rights in the state. The community has art shows, gala events, and innumerable fundraisers in a city that is evolving for the better. There's little else in the state that can compare.
Norman, Oklahoma City. Philly elected its first openly gay state legislator, Brian Sims, in Philly has welcomed its LGBTQ peeps since the s, when the scene consisted of private house parties and semisecret venues. In the s, the neighborhood between Walnut and Pine Streets, around Juniper and 11th, became known for its gay community.
Back then, it was kind of seedy. In , the city hoisted rainbow-colored street signs at intersections. Wrap up the day with awesome food and cocktails, available all over.
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Where the very old South is making progress toward the new Population: The USC mascot is a gamecock, so the swag is on-point. Columbia embodies this tug between entrenched old South sensibilities and modern progressive influences. The city is home to plenty of conservative elements, but also more modern enclaves, like the Five Points area near the University of South Carolina, and the Vista , a waterfront arts and entertainment district.
This allows them to stay open later, sell on Sundays, and discern who can enter. Call ahead, and getting in shouldn't be a problem. The city government has newly committed to anti-discrimination laws and partner benefits. Just this March, Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed a bill allowing adoption and foster agencies to legally refuse working with gay couples. Brookings also benefits from being the home of South Dakota State University, whose on-campus gender and sexuality alliance -- which hosts a drag show each semester -- is working to form a similar alliance at the high school.
Bona fides: Aside from landmarks with names like Sex Change Ridge and a hiking trail called the Fruit Loop, commune residents are said to lead a fairly traditional back-to-the-land lifestyle, keeping goats and tending gardens and making decisions by consensus. Nashville, Knoxville, Memphis, Chattanooga, Greeneville. A post shared by Molly Almas mnalmas The gay community of the future Population: In , Houston had its own Stonewall-level event which created "Town Meeting 1" -- an initiative that created more than organizations across the state that are now turning 40 this year.
The city had an openly gay mayor until last year with a dedicated caucus, as well as out city council members and an openly gay DA, which gives a lot of role models for younger kids to look up to. But in this state, once you get out of the blue zones you are unsafe. We benefit from people congregating in the cities but also this leads to a lot of homeless gay youth, so we're trying to do good by them.
And not for nothing: Dallas, Austin, El Paso. A former political warzone is changing with the times Population: We know what you're thinking: He was in town for his first Conservative Political Action Conference CPAC , an event that he took seriously enough to dress up for dark suit, American-flag tie but that he was also interested in for its anthropological weirdness. A few feet away, several conservative gay and bisexual journalists and activists reclined on couches. Among them was Charlie Nash, a tweed-wearing year-old British reporter for Breitbart who described himself to me as a pagan, an absurdist and a right-wing environmentalist.
At the bar, Holden and a fellow Suffolk student were joined by a heavyset man in a colorful checkered shirt. Before telling them his name and asking that I not use it , the man introduced himself by way of a toast: Before long, it became clear why he had joined the students in conversation: But even as the man flirted he confided that he was deeply closeted and, in fact, saw his same-sex attractions as a kind of affliction. For his part, Holden said he believed his sexual orientation was one of the least interesting things about him.
But perhaps above all else, Holden rejects what he considers a bedrock of contemporary liberalism: Holden considered the Gaylord a fitting name for a conference with many openly gay attendees, including Log Cabin Republicans a conservative L. Gregory T. Angelo, a year-old longtime communications specialist who until recently was the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, told me that he had never seen so many openly gay conservatives at CPAC.
Many L. And, perhaps counterintuitive, some attribute this in part to Trump himself. As flawed as Trump is, and despite some of his unfortunate policy moves on this front, he might actually represent a fulcrum point within the party on gay issues. Trump is the first sitting Republican president to publicly commend the organization.
What a difference three years can make. The reality, I would come to learn, is a bit more complicated than that.
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There have historically been few good times to be a gay conservative. Gay Republicans have spent the better part of several decades being excoriated from all sides, largely rejected by their party and alternately mocked and reviled by many in the L. When I asked Rob Smith — a year-old Iraq War veteran and former Democrat who is now a conservative — about the longtime narrative associated with gays in the G. Gay conservatives have offered endless fodder for comedians. David Letterman took a shot during the Republican National Convention: When not mocking gay conservatives, comedians — as well as many in the L.
But gay Republicans have also long been seen by many in the L. Gay Republicans have typically offered two reasons for remaining loyal to a party that offers little reciprocation. The first is that while they wish the party were better on L. I knew I was conservative before I knew I was gay. But gay conservatives also speak of their party affiliation as a kind of public service.
Many have insisted for decades that their presence in the G. In recent years, gay and lesbian conservatives have been especially eager to take partial credit for the legalization of same-sex marriage. Listening to gay Republicans take credit for gay civil rights victories is a mind-bending exercise for many L. Though L. Transgender Americans have borne the brunt of those efforts. Trump has tried to block transgender people from serving in the military and reversed several Obama-era policies that protected transgender Americans from discrimination in workplaces, schools and prisons. In addition to more symbolic gestures, like failing to recognize L.
On the same day as the transgender military ban announcement, for example, the Trump administration landed two other blows against L. As governor of Kansas, Brownback signed an executive order in prohibiting the state government from penalizing religious groups that deny services to married same-sex couples. The most obvious is the G. And yet, many L. Angelo, who said the Log Cabin Republicans had a spike in membership and social media followers in , believes that this greater G. Considering how much criticism L. The assimilationist-minded Log Cabin Republicans, the Trump critics like Sullivan, the deliberately trollish Yiannopoulos acolytes and the conservative-leaning college students coming of age in an era of greater social acceptance have seemingly little in common besides their sexual orientation — and their oft-stated distaste for identity politics.
I routinely heard conservative gays criticize other conservative gays as ineffective, boring or empty vessels. He did not, he told me, though he recently had gone on a Tinder date with a Trump appointee. But Hattaway was friends with a gay former conservative — a year-old named Ryan Newcomb, who worked in the White House during the George W. Though he is out of the closet, he asked me not to use his name so he could speak freely about his personal life.
His liberal boyfriend of about a year, whom C. Though C. As we waited for C. I heard something similar from Tim Miller, a gay former communications staff member for Jeb Bush, who told me he was surprised by how quickly a community of mostly young, openly gay conservative men has formed in recent years in Washington.
Conservative lesbians often have less luck finding community. Sarah Longwell told me that she personally knew only a handful of conservative lesbians, and that her spouse and all her close lesbian friends are Democrats.
When C. Awkward silence ensued. Before long, C. In late I visited Chadwick Moore, a year-old former liberal and writer for the national gay magazine Out who is now one of the most combative L. During a June segment about a Huffington Post piece calling for a boycott of Chick-fil-A for its past donations to groups opposing L.
This current iteration of Moore would likely come as a surprise to the old version, who voted for Hillary Clinton. Worse yet, the left is no fun anymore. Wintrich, who attended Bard College and could even now pass for a brooding student at the famously liberal school, smoked a cigarette near an open kitchen window. In April I traveled to northwest Oklahoma to meet Colton Buckley, a year-old gay cowboy in the midst of a Republican primary campaign for a seat in the Oklahoma House.
Of the 1, county residents who voted in the presidential election, only backed Clinton.