Many of us view retirement as a time to relax, enjoy hobbies and interests, and spend more time with family and friends. For some, retirement may even be a time to begin a new career path or start a new business.
Some may choose to live in their existing home, but others may consider relocating to a state with a lower tax burden, a better climate, or more affordable housing. But for seniors in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ+) community, there are important additional considerations, like legal protections. Some cities and states are more friendly or progressive towards LGBTQ+ residents than others.
In fact, many LGBTQ+ elders live in a state with no federal protections, where they can be legally denied access to housing and public accommodations. A study by the UCLA Williams Institute School of Law reports that over 5.4 million — almost half of all LGBTQ+ adults in the U.S. — live in states without statutory protections against sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing, and 7.7 million lack such protections in credit.”
Awareness of the local laws regarding the LGBTQ+ population is essential for deciding where to retire.
Recently, Retirement Living embarked on a study to find the best states in the U.S. for LGBTQ+ retirees to live. In addition to examining the local laws, we considered the percentage of the population over 65, the percentage of the population identified as LGBTQ+, the average home price, and the cost of living to generate a list of states.
2022’s Best States for LGBTQ+ Retirees
Here, in ascending order, are the best states for LGBTQ+ retirees to live.
New Hampshire’s LGBTQ+ population is 51,000 people, about 3.7% of the state’s total residents.
The Granite State is not only beautiful but has some of the lowest rates of reported hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community and was considered very LGBTQ+-friendly, according to a 2020 survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).
New Hampshire has enacted many state laws to help protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination, as well as around topics of parenting, health care, HIV/AIDS, transgender issues, and LGBTQ+ youth protection.
Discrimination in health care based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression is prohibited in New Hampshire. Although there is no state-specific bulletin about transition-related health care, most insurers must cover it. Medical decision-making rights are granted to married same-sex couples.
Discrimination in employment, credit, housing and public accommodations like restaurants or stores on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression is also prohibited. However, nondiscrimination laws surrounding credit and lending for the LGBTQ+ population are not listed.
There are several financial advantages to living in New Hampshire. There is no state income or sales tax, social security tax, or taxes on withdrawals from retirement accounts. Public and private pension income is not taxed.
New Hampshire also has low crime and poverty rates. They have one of the lowest burglary rates in the country, the second lowest rates of property crime and violent crime, and the fourth lowest rate of larceny theft. They are also ranked second lowest rate for senior poverty.
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Oregon, located in the Pacific Northwest, is known for its abundance of green spaces, beautiful beaches, and a thriving arts and culture scene. The state also boasts a low cost of living and no sales tax. Oregon attracts retirees from all over the country because it doesn’t tax social security benefits.
The Beaver State is at the top of the list for states with the highest percentage of LGBTQ+ residents. Approximately 3.4% of Oregonians aged 55 and older identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB).
In the past decade, Oregon has accomplished much by passing more than 27 laws LGBTQ+ -friendly laws in the areas of employment, housing, education and more. It still does not have a credit and lending nondiscrimination law protecting the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2018, Oregon reported 31 hate crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation, one of the highest hate crime rates among states. However, Oregon is working towards creating a better environment for its LGBTQ+ population. A September 2021 study called the Oregon LGBTQ Older Adult Survey Report identified key findings about LGBTQ+ elders’ service needs. The 71-page report states, “moving forward, it will be critical to further extend the initial work and advocacy of LGBTQ+ organizations to promote partnerships between these communities, aging agencies, and state and local policymakers to develop a comprehensive approach to addressing aging and health needs of LGBTQ+ older adults.”
Rainbow Vista, an LGBTQ+ senior community (55+), is located in Gresham, about 15 miles from downtown Portland.
Washington, another Pacific Northwest state, is known for its abundance of greenery, mild climate, beautiful ocean and bay views, thriving cultural scene, and of course, gourmet coffee. With various recreational and hiking areas, Seattle made Kiplinger’s list of the Top 12 Cities to Retire For Good Health.
The eastern part of The Evergreen State boasts an amazing wine-growing region in Walla Walla that produces world-class wines. The western part of the state is known for its temperate climate.
More than 21% of Washington’s population is seniors and 3.9% identify as LGBTQ+. Washington has worked hard to enact laws for LGBTQ+ equality.
A new 118-unit affordable housing development offered by GenPride and Community Roots Housing broke ground in September 2021 on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It will have seven stories of affordable apartments, a 4,400-square-foot senior community and health services center on the ground floor, and additional commercial storefront spaces.
Washington is also home to The Northwest LGBT Senior Care Providers Network. This is an informal coalition of Senior Care Providers working together to provide advocacy and quality of care for the LGBT seniors of Washington State. It’s not just for healthcare. Members of the network include attorneys, community services and senior centers, financial planners, housing providers, insurance providers, moving services, and information services. Service providers who join this network sign a nondiscrimination agreement.
Long considered a leader in LGBTQ+ rights, Iowa’s nondiscrimination laws for LGBTQ+ people in education, employment, public accommodations, housing, credit, and more have existed for over 15 years. The Hawkeye State was the fourth state in the country to recognize marriage equality.
Iowa ranks 17th in the nation for the number of adults over 65. Almost 18% of Iowans are seniors, and 2.7% of the population identify as LGBTQ+. States with larger populations of older adults are more likely to have plenty of retirement homes, communities, and services.
One service Iowa offers through its One Iowa program is the LGBTQ+ Older Adults Friendly Caller Program. The One Iowa Friendly Caller Program connects older LGBTQ+ Iowans with other members of the LGBTQ+ community through weekly phone calls. These weekly check-ins aim to reduce stress and improve health among LGBTQ+ older adults by providing communication, connections, and support.
Iowa is moderately tax-friendly toward retirees. While Social Security income is not taxed, withdrawals from retirement accounts are partially taxed. Iowa’s state tax rate is 5.90%, and the mean housing cost was $164,000 at the time of publishing.
New York City, specifically, is recognized as one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly places in the United States.
In 2003, New York passed the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA), which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights.”
The 2021 Hoylman Bill to Assist Older LGBTQ New Yorkers adds older LGBTQ+ persons and those persons living with HIV/AIDS to the definition of populations that have the “greatest social need’ within the state-funded services and programs for aging people. The Holyman Bill can help to keep LGBTQ+ elders living independently.
Additionally, in June 2021, New York State’s Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) announced the creation of an Advisory Council for older LGBTQ+ New Yorkers. The Advisory Council will include AARP New York, the Association on Aging in New York state, and key people representing the LGBTQ+ community. The Council plans to fill identified gaps by improving the LGBTQ+ community’s access to services and enhancing the cultural competency of the senior care workforce”.
New York City has also recently completed state-supported LGBT/age-friendly affordable housing in downtown Bay Shore and other sites in New York City.
In New York, Social Security monies, federal and New York government pensions, and military retirement pay will not be taxed. However, anything over $20,000 from a private retirement plan (including pensions, IRAs and 401(k) plans) or an out-of-state government plan will not be exempt from taxation.
Located in the heartland of America, Illinois is one of the most progressive states when it comes to equality for the LGBTQ+ community. TThe 1979 Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits unfair treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Illinois law also protects same-sex marriage. Other laws protect the LGBTQ+ community against housing providers, including landlords, who cannot discriminate against the LGBTQ+ community or deny housing to people with HIV/AIDS. Lenders cannot deny federally-insured mortgages to those wishing to purchase a home.
Illinois is one of three states that also recently passed a law that designates that all public single-occupancy restrooms are to be treated as gender neutral. Illinois is also one of the eight states to ban LGBTQ “panic” defenses, which they believe will help to end legitimization of violence towards LGBTQ people.
In Illinois, the population of LGBTQ+ residents is 3.3%, and the senior population is 16.6% of the state’s total population. The average home price is approximately $214,300.00 at the time of publication.
While Illinois law is very LGBTQ+ friendly, the state did not rank well among our readers for best and worst states for retirement. Retirees in Illinois face high property and high fuel taxes.
The Bay State has a wide range of beautiful scenery including ocean beaches, off-shore islands, farmlands, and mountains. Massachusetts is known for its breathtaking fall landscapes.
A state that is rich with arts and culture, Massachusetts is home to the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Williamstown Theatre Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and several museums in Boston. If you love history, Massachusetts has a wealth of information about the founding of our country.
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. State laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and/or HIV/AIDS status. Massachusetts state law also bans discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
This New England state is also widely known for its world-renowned healthcare facilities. State law prohibits healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and insurers are prohibited from excluding transgender transition-related healthcare from coverage.
Massachusetts seniors make up approximately 17.5% of the population, and the LGBTQ+ population makes up 4.2% of the total population. This is the second-highest percentage of LGBTQ+ residents in all states.
With a median housing cost of $439,800.00, Massachusetts is not the most affordable states to live, but it is relatively tax-friendly for seniors. Social security benefits and public pensions are not taxed.
Nevada is a great state for retirees who want to continue to lead an active lifestyle. Pleasant temperatures in most areas and lots of available outdoor activities such as hiking, boating and golfing make it a great state for retirees. Seniors make up 16.6% of the population.
While nearly three-quarters of the people living in Nevada are in the Las Vegas area, there are many other cities in which to live, some more remote than others. The mean housing cost is $333,000.
Nevada is also very tax-friendly to retirees. There are no tax on state income, social security, or public pensions. Withdrawals from retirement accounts and private pensions are also exempt.
Nevada has a relatively low share of hate crimes and is considered one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly states in the mountain west. Over 4% of its population identifies as LGBTQ+. State laws prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations. In addition, conversion therapy on minors is prohibited in the state.
Between the years of 2009 to 2019, Nevada passed 34 laws protecting the rights and safety of its LGBTQ+ population. It was the first state to recognize gay marriage in its state constitution and has legally recognized same-sex marriage since 2014.
Driving, biking, or walking almost anywhere in Vermont can lead to beautiful views. Active retirees can golf and boat in the summer, ski in the winter, and leaf peep in the fall.
Vermont has a large senior population – almost 21% of the state’s population is over 65. We found Vermont to be one of the friendliest states to the LGBTQ+ population, too. It offers better access to CenterLink pride centers than any other state. Vermont has an estimated 26,000 LGBTQ+ residents, who make up 4% of the population. It has three pride centers.
Vermont has anti-discrimination laws focused on both sexual orientation and gender identification. Same-sex marriage has been recognized in Vermont since September 1, 2009. It was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage through the actions of the legislature rather than as a result of a court decision.
Vermont also has some of the most comprehensive laws to protect LGBTQ+ people’s health and safety. The state continues to collect data on the health and wellness of LGBTQ+ youth and adults so that they can add new programs and laws as needed.
The median home price in Vermont is $235,000.
Coming in at number one for LGBTQ+ retirement locations, Maine is another beautiful northeastern state with so much to do and see. The cost of living is relatively low; housing is affordable, and the average home price at $211,000. Typical renting fees are also less expensive in Maine than in other states.
Maine is also one of the nation’s safest states, boasting some of the lowest violent and property crime rates in the nation.
Maine has made considerable strides in becoming a more equitable and safe haven for the LGBTQ+ population. In 2019, the legislature passed five bills to help protect the rights and health of its LGBTQ+ residents. Maine’s anti-hate crime laws include eliminating “panic” defenses and making the reporting of such crimes mandatory.
LGBTQ+ residents are 3.9% of Maine’s total population. The elderly population is about 21.8% of all residents.
Their SAGE National Resource Center for LGBTQ+ Aging (Advocacy and Services for LGBTQ+ elders) provides the SAGEConnect program, which aims to pull isolated, home-bound or lonely LGBTQ+ older people “tighter into their community and make sure they feel safe, loved, and visible.” This resource center also works to educate by conducting LGBTQ+ culture competency trainings.
California’s high housing prices make it an expensive place to retire. Though sales taxes are among the highest in the country, retirees get to keep all their Social Security retirement benefits and most military disability payments are taxed. Wages are higher, and plenty of jobs are available for working retirees.
California offers a mild climate, laid-back lifestyle, emphasis on health and well-being, beautiful beaches, and a lively cultural scene.
The LGBTQ+ population will appreciate state laws that cover nondiscrimination, health and safety, housing, credit, parenting, youth, religious laws, and policies and hate crimes. All include sexual orientation as well as gender identity. Additionally, laws have been enacted banning the LGBTQ “panic” defense.
There are several CenterLink pride centers (2 per every 100,000 LGBTQ people) which help to strengthen, support and connect the LGBTQ+ community.
According to the University of California Los Angeles, 77% of LGBTQ+ adults living in the Pacific states live in California — equating to 4.1% of the states total population. The population of seniors is a bit low at 15.2%
Florida attracts retirees with its mild climate, beautiful beaches, and sprawling retirement communities.
It is estimated that by 2030, the population of Florida will grow to 23.9 million, with 6 million of these residents being seniors 65 and older. Due to its lack of state income tax, Florida was voted by Kiplinger as one of the top ten most tax-friendly states for retirees. There are no state taxes on Social Security benefits or public pensions and also no state taxes on IRAs, 401(k)s and other sources of retirement income.
Florida is generally known for having one of the lower rates of hate crimes motivated by gender identity or sexual orientation. However, in 2016, the mass shooting at Orlando’s Pulse, a gay nightclub, resulted in a gunman killing 29 people and injuring many. It is considered the deadliest attack on LGBTQ+ people in American history.
Despite the recent “Don’t say Gay Bill,” Florida has a fair amount of nondiscrimination laws on its books regarding same-sex marriage, employment, housing, and public accommodations. Several cities and counties have enacted anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ+ population, but Florida does not have a nondiscrimination law covering credit and lending. The state has also not repealed its laws forbidding certain sexual practices, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional in 2003.