The Best States for LGBTQ+ Retirees
Many of us view retirement as a time to relax, enjoy hobbies and interests, and visit family. 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 worth considering.
2023’s Best States for LGBTQ+ Retirees
Here are the best states for LGBTQ+ retirees to live.
10. New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s LGBTQ+ population is 51,000 people, about 3.7% of the state’s total residents.
Historically, The Granite State has had some of the lowest rates of reported hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, and 88% of residents support nondiscrimination protections, according to a 2022 Public Religion Research Institute’s (PRRI) survey.
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, healthcare, HIV/AIDS, transgender issues, and LGBTQ+ youth protection.
Discrimination in healthcare 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. Same-sex couples are also granted medical decision-making rights.
New Hampshire prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations like restaurants or stores on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. However, the state lacks nondiscrimination laws surrounding credit and lending for the LGBTQ+ population.
In addition to favorable equality metrics, there are several financial and tax advantages to living in New Hampshire. The state does not tax income, sales, social security, retirement withdrawals, or pensions.
New Hampshire also has less crime and fewer instances of senior poverty. The most recent FBI reports available mark the state among the lowest in the nation for burglary, property crime and violent crime, and larceny theft.
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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 4.3% 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.
With various recreational and hiking areas, Seattle, Washington, made Kiplinger’s list of the Top 12 Cities to Retire For Good Health. The eastern part of the state is home to Walla Walla, a region 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. The 2022 State Equality Index by Human Rights Campaign praised the state for its statewide policies protecting sexual orientation and gender identity. In April 2023, Washington moved the Shield Law forward to protect trans residents.
In 2021, GenPride and Community Roots Housing broke ground on a seven-story senior-focused affordable housing development called Pride Place on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, which is slated to open in late 2023. The structure includes a 4,400-square-foot senior community and health services center 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 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 have existed for over 15 years. The Hawkeye State was the fourth state in the country to recognize marriage equality. And as of 2023, Iowa is one of only 13 states to pass laws protecting LGBTQ+ employment, education public accommodations, housing, and credit. (Though a recently proposed bill—SF 496—would ban discussing LBGTQ+ topics in classrooms.)
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 7%, and the mean housing cost is $164,000.
6. New York
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.”
In 2022, New York lawmakers passed The Hoylman Bill to Assist Older LGBTQ New Yorkers, which added 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 includes 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 are not taxed. However, residents 59 ½ and older will pay taxes on anything over $20,000 from a private retirement plan (including pensions, IRAs and 401(k) plans) or an out-of-state government plan.
Located in the heartland of America, Illinois is one of the most progressive states when it comes to equality for the LGBTQ+ community. The 1979 Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits unfair treatment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
In addition to recognizing same-sex marriage, Illinois 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 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.
Roughly 3.3% of the Illinois population identifies as LGBTQ+ (seniors make up 16.6% of the state’s total population). While Illinois law is very LGBTQ+ friendly, the state does not rank well among our readers for best and worst states for retirement. Retirees in Illinois face high property and high fuel taxes. The average home price is approximately $214,300 at the time of publication.
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 and historical landmarks.
Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004. Since then, they’ve passed additional state laws prohibiting 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, which prohibits healthcare discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Insurers are also prohibited from excluding transgender transition-related healthcare from coverage.
Massachusetts seniors make up approximately 17.5% of the population, and at 4.2%, the percentage of the population identifying as LGBTQ+ is among the highest in the nation.
With a median housing cost of $439,800, Massachusetts is not the most affordable state to live, but it is relatively tax-friendly for seniors. Social security benefits and public pensions are not taxed, and the state allows you to deduct a portion of your medical or dental expenses if you meet certain income criteria.
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 and 4.1% of its population identifies as LGBTQ+. While most of the population circles the Las Vegas metro, there are other desirable and affordable cities to retire. The mean housing cost is $333,000.
Retirees enjoy several tax benefits, including no state income tax, social security, or public pension tax. Withdrawals from retirement accounts and private pensions are also exempt.
As far as equality, Nevada is considered one of the most LGBTQ+ friendly states in the mountain west thanks to its low percentage of hate crimes. 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.
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 also has three pride centers.
Vermont has anti-discrimination laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identification. Same-sex marriage has been recognized in Vermont since September 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, including ensuring that transgender people cannot be excluded from health care. 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.
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. But where it shines in equality metrics, it fails in tax-friendliness and affordability. Vermont taxes most retirement income.
Coming in at number one for LGBTQ+ retirement locations, Maine offers safe cities, affordable housing (the cost to rent is also less in Main than in other states), and a large senior population. About 21.8% of all residents are elderly and LGBTQ+ residents account for 3.9% of Maine’s total population.
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. In 2021, the state enacted a bill to explicitly include “gender identity and family status” throughout all of Maine’s legal statutes, not just discrimination laws. The state also stands against youth conversion therapy.
Maine’s 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.
If you can overlook its affordability factor, California has sweeping state LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination laws and protections for health and safety, housing, credit, parenting, youth, religious laws, and policies and hate crimes. All include sexual orientation as well as gender identity. Additionally, California was the first state to ban “panic” defenses in 2014.
There are several CenterLink pride centers (two per every 100,000 LGBTQ people) that 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 state’s 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. Due to its lack of state income tax, Florida ranks as one of our top ten most tax-friendly states for retirees. There are no state taxes on Social Security benefits, public pensions, 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” and moves to ban gender affirming care for transgender youth, Florida has a fair amount of nondiscrimination laws on its books regarding same-sex marriage, employment, housing, and public accommodations, but not credit and lending. Several cities and counties in Orlando and Miami have enacted anti-discrimination laws protecting the LGBTQ+ population. These local ordinances helped make these cities some of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in America.
It’s also worth mentioning that the state has not repealed its laws forbidding certain sexual practices, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled those laws unconstitutional in 2003.