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That's the discouraging news, if you're living in any of those states, or if you care about equal rights. The better news is, states are hardly monoliths. In every one, cities are ahead of the curve in making life more welcoming -- and more safe -- for diverse peoples. City councils are simply faster and more nimble than state legislatures. They've got to be. Cities in the likes of Wyoming and Kentucky and Arkansas are the best chance for leading their deep-red states toward overdue changes.

It's easy to sniff at the slow progress in Mississippi -- but who in America is fighting the good fight like Jesse Pandolfo, who runs the gay bar in Jackson? Likewise you might fault Iowa for flipping back to red in -- but almost no one is pushing harder for broad civil equality than the people of Iowa City. The trench work for equality is happening in cities most blue-staters couldn't find on a map. And you can't judge a city simply by the voting habits of people nearby. Nothing can be queerer than getting out of your comfort zone.

One simple metric that recurred: Where would a same-sex couple be most comfortable holding hands in public? The hope is, in these cities, a visitor or newcomer could enjoy the best overall experience. If your city isn't on here, there's always time to get to work. Talk to your city leaders. You never know where that momentum will go. There's a bubbling-up effect that starts on the ground. State law still dictates that teachers must tell students "that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.

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Ratburn and his partner. So you see where we're at with Alabama. Regardless, all hope is not lost. God speed. And Gina Mallisham, a member of the Pride advisory board in Birmingham, says wryly, "Adversity is nothing new to disenfranchised people in the South. One great city with a surprisingly diverse community Population: , Bona fides : One of the nation's best gay bars is alone worth the trip. Slow clap, Alaska.

Right now, Anchorage is living its best life.


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Brooks Banker, director of community engagement and youth programming at Identity Alaska , says that the city's Pride Fest had 10, in attendance last year. Population: , Bona fides : The newly installed Safe Place program is one of the most progressive protections in the country. Says Tony Ray Baker, of GayTucson : "Tucson was the first city in the US to enact a domestic partner provision way back in the '70s, and was also home of the first church to openly welcome gay members -- drawing the ire and protest of a very young Fred Phelps.

The city also boasts a program called Safe Place , wherein businesses throughout the community have rainbow stickers in their windows, indicating that they are a shelter from harassment or bullying.

Adding to that, the police have trained business owners to be able to handle all kinds of issues, especially situations that may threaten trans people. It all makes for a surprisingly well-protected and inviting city; even the US Veterans Administration hosts regular clinic hours for trans servicemembers. This town in Northwest Arkansas probably has the highest concentration of publicly displayed rainbow flags within a mile radius. No one would expect less from a touristy liberal enclave with openly gay municipal employees, where same-sex couples feel comfortable walking hand-in-hand, and which three times a year -- spring, summer, and fall -- celebrates diversity weekends that include parades, drag shows, and dance parties.

Gay life powers this suburb of Fort Lauderdale.


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The community is home to the Stonewall National Museum, and holds a Stonewall parade and festival each year. Scientists are still parsing through data to determine the gayest strip mall in America, but we're going to go ahead and call it: the Shoppes of Wilton Manors. Sadly, Humpy's Pizza closed. The double entendres are part of the fun in this small, subtropical city where gay households make up 8.

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A walkable mile and a half along Wilton Dr is the main attraction, says former mayor now commissioner Gary Resnick. Every night it's packed. Honorable mentions: Orlando, St. 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.

A mix of safety and entertainment in the middle of red country Population: , Bona fides: 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.

The annual Boise Pride Festival -- which just turned 30 -- rallies large crowds each summer, but drag performance group LipsInc! The capital of Mike Pence's home state calls BS on "religious freedom. All along Massachusetts Ave. 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: 76, Bona fides: 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.


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It's just got a good legacy of advancement and it's been ahead of the curve for the LGBT movement. Amongst other things -- like its robust and supportive Pride Alliance Center -- 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.

Says Hoffman-Zinnel: "We surprise folks. A conservative metropolis gets a more progressive police presence.

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To wit: In , for the first time, a mounted police unit marched in the Pride parade. At least Kansas' biggest city may be the next best thing. Kim Davis' hometown fights back. Population: 7, Bona fides: 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.

Most Gay Friendly Cities in Conservative States: LGBTQ Rights & Laws - Thrillist

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. Honorable mentions : Louisville, Lexington, Vicco, Midway. 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.

Honorable mentions: Shreveport, Lafayette, Baton Rouge. The Midwest's best, brightest gay vacation destination Population: and 1,, respectively Bona fides: 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.

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: , Bona fides: In , Unite Mississippi started a Pride parade here that Kit Williamson, a Jackson native and actor on Mad Men , came home to emcee in 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. Honorable mention: Magnolia, which just passed its own anti-discrimination measures.