(MoneyWatch) The best places for members of the LGBT community to work are in the Midwest, Northeast, and on the West, according to a new study.
The survey, by employment law website XpertHR, ranked the top-10 states where gays and lesbians are protected from workplace discrimination, can marry or form unions, and are most likely to receive benefits, like health care for same-sex partners.
Two Midwestern states made the list -- Iowa and Minnesota. Both states have legalized gay marriage and mandate that businesses offer same-sex benefits to employees. Many of Iowa's laws protecting the LGBT community go back more than a decade. Iowa was the third state in the nation to make gay marriage legal. And Iowa City, where the University of Iowa is located, enacted a law back in 1977 making it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation -- one of the first municipalities in the nation to make such a law.
On the east coast Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont offer friendly work environments to gays and lesbians. All offer protections from hate crimes and workplace discrimination. Massachusetts was the first state in the union to legalize gay marriage in 2003, and for 20 years has allowed same sex couples to register as domestic partners for the purposes of bereavement leave and hospital visits.
On the west coast, California and Washington both have legalized gay marriage, and provide work environments friendly to LGBT workers. Both states have laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in addition to sexual orientation. There are large LGBT communities in cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Seattle. California is recognized as a trailblazer for gay rights. In 1999 it became the first state in the nation to recognize domestic partnerships, and today it is one of the only states to extend Family and Medical Leave benefits to same-sex partners.