More Cities Exceed State and Federal LGBT Protections in 2015

Louisville, Kentucky, was one of the MEI's "All Stars" for enforcing LGBT protection in spit of state foot-dragging.

Louisville, Kentucky, was one of the MEI's "All Stars" for enforcing LGBT protection in spit of state foot-dragging. traxlergirl / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Transgender-inclusive anti-discrimination laws and policies saw big gains among U.S. municipalities, according to an examination by the Human Rights Campaign.

A record 47 cities scored perfect on the 2015 Municipal Equality Index for codifying local protections for LGBT people, even in states lacking fully-inclusive policies, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which crunched the numbers.

Since 2012, cities with perfect scores quadrupled, covering 32 million residents regardless of size.

Southern cities remain more resistant to change, though Louisville, Kentucky, bucked that trend—being named an “All Star” for its LGBT trainings, worker protections and “Say I do in Lou” marriage equality campaign.

“In too many communities, LGBT Americans continue to face barriers to equality, overt discrimination, and even violence,” said Chad Griffin, HRC president, in the announcement. “We believe those challenges make full equality and strong legal protections all the more important, and today's report makes clear that hundreds of local communities throughout all 50 states wholeheartedly agree.”

Transgender equality saw gains this year, trans-inclusive anti-discrimination policies that exceed state or federal protections being necessary for a perfect index score. In 2015, 66 cities offered transgender-inclusive healthcare to city employees, compared to 42 a year earlier.

Between 2013 and 2015, 53 transgender individuals were victims of homicide in the U.S., the vast majority being minorities with an average age of 31, according to the report. Trans women are 4.3 times more likely to be killed than women as a whole.

Correcting misreporting and underreporting of hate crimes is a start, as all cities to receive a perfect index score have their police accurately submit such cases to the FBI.

Survival sex work puts transgender people at risk, so programs ensuring they have jobs and healthcare like trans-specific employment placement and training are recommended in the report.

The MEI also advises police to build better relationships with the transgender community:

The MEI asks cities to have LGBT liaisons in the police department to ensure that the police are more accountable to the LGBT community and more aware of the ways in which the LGBT community’s concerns about interactions with the police are unique.

A liaison can be called to a scene of a suspected hate crime to ensure the situation is handled with the gravity and sensitivity it requires, they can be a source of knowledge to other officers about things like proper pronoun usage and when using a legal name is or isn’t appropriate, and they can provide context about the social conditions that make transgender people particularly subject to discrimination and violence.

A total of 38 earned perfect scores in the 2014 index, some in the 31 states lacking fully-inclusive nondiscrimination policies regarding employment and housing.

While all regions of the U.S. had 100-point cities, the West, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic and New England regions had more than the Mountain, Plains, Southeast and Southwest regions, which fell below the national average of 56.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court marriage equality decision in Obergefell v. Hodges earlier this year, some cities are reconsidering their LGBT city employee domestic partner benefits and citywide domestic partnership registries. This is a mistake, according to the MEI:

Preserving domestic partnership laws and policies honors the many family structures that exist today and respects the important personal and practical considerations that factor into a couple’s decision not to marry. It ensures that families are not cut off from essential benefits like health insurance and vital legal protections like the right to make health care decisions for an incapacitated partner.

Moreover, requiring people to obtain public marriage licenses can effectively “out” LGBT city employees, placing them and their families at a unique risk of discrimination in states that lack explicit protections. Finally, domestic partnership laws and policies continue to be good for business, helping to attract talented workers and businesses, and serving to boost employee morale and productivity—all at a negligible cost.

Cities with more LGBT couples, officials and police liaisons tended to score higher on the index.

See city scores here.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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