Post submitted by HRC New Orleans Steering Committee member Melissa Warren.
HRC’s Municipal Equality Index is a prime example of what the HRC Foundation is doing on a local level for its members and supporters.
The MEI, the first-ever rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law, rates 137 municipalities throughout the United States including 50 state capitals and 50 of the most populous cities in the country. The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: non-discrimination laws; relationship recognition; the municipality’s employment practices; inclusiveness of city services; law enforcement; and municipal leadership. Cities are rated on a scale of 0-100.
My home city of New Orleans received a rating of 79. While the city has several categories with room for improvement, the city leadership has proven they have the willingness to support the LGBT community through the progressive, pro-LGBT policies they have implemented which have preempted restrictive state laws.
The city received bonus points for engaging with the LGBT community by having openly LGBT leadership and giving services to the vulnerable LGBT population (seniors, youth, the homeless and people living with HIV or AIDS).
A notable negative on the New Orleans scorecard is the NOPD’s failure to report hate crimes. While the NOPD did score points for having an LGBT Task Force or liaison available to the department, the lack of reporting hate crimes underscores the NOPD’s historic discriminatory policing of the LGBT community. One of the goals of the recent Consent Decree between the U.S. Government and the City of New Orleans is to encourage bias-free policing.
Future MEI surveys will help track the progress made in the reporting of hate crimes and other criteria that received low scores.
Hopefully the preemptive and inclusive policies adopted by the City of New Orleans will serve as an example that will be followed by the state of Louisiana and surrounding cities. These pro-LGBT business policies are essential to economic development as the city and the state vie for and expand the presence of Fortune 500 companies, oil and gas, biotechnical, manufacturing, research and development, entertainment and various other industries.
When cities include policies such as this, it sends a message that they want to provide a welcoming, diverse environment for people to live and businesses to thrive.
How can you take action for equality?
You can use the MEI as a tool to take action for equality. Familiarize yourself with the scores of cities and municipalities of interest to you. Share the results of the MEI with city representatives, friends, neighbors and community organizers and start active dialogue about how to improve your community’s score.
Learn more at www.hrc.org/mei.