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6 Surprising Places It's Great To Be Gay (Dallas, Texas?)

It's not just coastal urban areas that can be safe havens for LGBT people.

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Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Kentucky's neighbor to the south, Tennessee, given that the state Senate just passed a law that prohibits mentioning anything at all related to LGBT issues in classrooms, and the governor just signed a law reversing anti-discrimination ordinances in Nashville. Anti-LGBT elected officials like Republican State Rep. Stacey Campfield, the “Don't Say Gay” bill's sponsor, are not just forcing these pieces of legislation through their state chambers -- they're approaching that work with a desperation that borders on obsession (as evidenced by recent efforts to amend state Constitutions in Minnesota and North Carolina to forever disallow same-sex marriage, even when same-sex marriage is already outlawed). This kind of vitriolic and cowardly lawmaking certainly impacts the overall legal standing of LGBT folks, but pockets of queer-friendliness like Lexington and Louisville certainly offer a reprieve from statewide laws.

3) Iowa City, Iowa. At first glance, Iowa is extraordinarily flat and unexciting. Deeper digging, however, reveals the best of Midwestern nice in a comfortable college town. Iowa City has a small-town feel in the heart of a university-dominated setting. There's a fantastic pedestrian bar area where you can enjoy a beer on a sunny day while reveling in Hawkeye football, or take a walk on a crisp fall afternoon. But Iowa City also has a long counterculture history, and there are plenty of opportunities to share in a queer culture that is shaped, but not dominated by the university.

Factor in the politically proud caucus culture that runs through Iowa's veins, and you have some pretty great conversations that unfold at the bars that dominate the downtown area. There are great opportunities to interact not only with the politicians who court Iowa's caucus-goers like nobody's business, but also the academics who have developed a bit of a political industry in the state. And of course, who can forget that as LGBT Californians lost the right to marry following the heartbreaking Prop. 8 vote, same-sex marriage became legal in the state of Iowa.

2) Anywhere in Vermont. The Green Mountain State is simply beautiful. Of course, the fact that LGBT folks who live there are as equal as possible without being federally equal is a big plus. (See the States of Equality Scorecard for a detailed run-down of LGBT legal standing in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.)

The state has done everything possible to protect its LGBT citizens to the degree possible while federal law renders them unequal. That work wasn't done easily, and certainly hasn't been without pushback. In some areas of the state, it is still quite controversial for LGBT residents to be out and open – though having the support and validation of the state government certainly mitigates most danger.

The absolutely gorgeous geography of the state is just icing on the cake – the state is nestled between the Green Mountains and the Adirondack mountains, with Lake Champlain thrown into the mix for good measure. The outdoorsy culture of the state lends itself to pretty regular interaction between neighbors (“Hey, can I borrow your skis to run up to the grocery store?”), and the reverence for participatory democracy that dominates the “town hall” season really boosts the quality of life factor for straight and queer Vermonters alike.

1) Western North Carolina. If you like mountains and eclectic culture, western North Carolina is the place for you. From the weirdness of Asheville to the artistry of Black Mountain to the university influence of Boone, the foothills of the Appalachian mountains are a really incredible place to visit and to live.

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