Tucson, Arizona

Population: 980,000 
Bona fides: The newly installed Safe Place program is one of the most progressive protections in the country. 

 Arizona cities are kicking ass -- Phoenix and Tempe also have perfect HRC scores -- but Tucson gets the nod here. 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." Pissing off the Westboro Baptist Church patriarch is truly God's work, but Tucson marches on. The city also has an openly gay police chief who has enacted a new program called Safe Place. 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; the US Veterans Administration has its primary wing for trans soldiers here. "We keep getting lumped in with the red mass," Baker says, "but we're a town full of loving and beautiful people." 

Justin Ayars