Cities Make LGBTQ Equality Gains Despite More Hostile State Political Climates

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American consulate , ... ] Sebastian Scheiner / AP Photo


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A total of 30 states have seen more than 130 pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in 2017, but 24 million people live in cities with more inclusive policies.

Eight new cities received perfect scores on the 2017 Municipal Equality Index, bringing the total number codifying model LGBTQ-inclusive policies to 68.

Cities are assessed on 44 criteria covering nondiscrimination protections, municipal employee policies, city services, law enforcement and government’s relationship with its LGBTQ community.

Nationally, the average city score increased from 55 to 57 points, as localities champion equality policies ahead of the federal and state governments, 30 of which introduced more than 130 anti-LGBTQ bills this year.

“This year’s MEI paints a vivid picture: cities big and small, in red and blue states alike, are continuing our progress toward full equality, regardless of the political drama unfolding in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the country,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign that co-publishes the MEI, in a statement. “Today, the MEI serves as a vital tool for business leaders and municipal officials alike when it comes to economic development.”

That cities are ahead of the curve on LGBTQ inclusion makes sense considering they’re in constant competition with each other to attract new businesses, which typically value diversity. According to the MEI, 24 million people live in cities with stronger LGBTQ-inclusive policies than their home states.

Forty-one “all-star” cities, those scoring above an 85 on the MEI, are in states lacking comprehensive nondiscrimination laws—up from 37 last year.

The number of municipalities offering transgender-inclusive health care benefits rose from 86 in 2016 to 111.

A total of 506 cities were included in this year’s MEI, including the 200 largest municipalities in the country, all 50 state capitals and a range small and midsize jurisdictions with high proportions of same-sex couples.

California led all states with 12 cities boasting perfect scores, though 25 states had at least one perfect city—listed below:

  • Arizona: Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson
  • California: Cathedral City, Guerneville, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oceanside, Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, West Hollywood
  • Colorado: Denver
  • Connecticut: Stamford
  • Florida: Orlando, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Wilton Manors
  • Georgia: Atlanta
  • Illinois: Chicago
  • Indiana: Bloomington
  • Iowa: Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Iowa City
  • Kentucky: Louisville
  • Maryland: Baltimore, Frederick, Rockville
  • Massachusetts: Boston, Cambridge, Provincetown, Salem, Worcester
  • Michigan: Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing
  • Minnesota: Minneapolis, St. Paul
  • Missouri: Columbia, Kansas City, St. Louis
  • Montana: Missoula
  • Nevada: Enterprise, Las Vegas, Paradise
  • New Jersey: Jersey City
  • New York: Albany, New York City, Rochester, Yonkers
  • Ohio: Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton
  • Pennsylvania: Allentown, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
  • Rhode Island: Providence
  • Texas: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth
  • Washington: Bellevue, Olympia, Seattle
  • Wisconsin: Madison

Across eight states, 11 cities received a score of zero—Mississippi featuring the most municipalities with MEI scores in the single digits:

  • Alaska: Sitka, Wasilla
  • Louisiana: Monroe
  • Mississippi: Southaven
  • Missouri: Jefferson City
  • Oklahoma: Moore, Stillwater
  • South Carolina: Clemson
  • South Dakota: Mitchell, Pierre
  • Wyoming: Sheridan

The scores of all 506 cities in the MEI can be found here.

Next year’s MEI will add fresh criteria on policies and practices protecting youth from conversion therapy, as well as deduct points from cities upholding religious exemptions leading to LGBTQ discrimination.

“Seattle, Washington joined the ranks of major cities banning the dangerous practice of conversion ‘therapy’ on minors at the city level, which is shockingly still legal in many places,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation Institute that also helps publish the MEI, in the report.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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