The Municipal Equality Index: Measuring Leadership on Matters of Equality
March 25, 2013 by Cathryn Oakley, Senior Legislative Counsel, State & Municipal Advocacy
This morning in Rhode Island several mayors – Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, Mayor Donald Grebien of Pawtucket, Mayor Daniel McKee of Cumberland, Mayor James Diossa of Central Falls, and Mayor Scott Avedisian of Warwick – expressed their support for the marriage equality bill pending in the state Senate. The bill has already passed the House. More information about this morning’s Mayors for Marriage Equality event can be found here.
These mayors did more than simply lend their voices to the conversation taking place about marriage equality. By speaking up in favor of equality they are also sending a larger message, one that tells LGBT people that they are a respected and valued part of the community. These messages are particularly important for young people: as HRC described in its groundbreaking youth report, four in ten LGBT youth surveyed said the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people, and 60 percent of the youth surveyed said they have heard negative messages about being LGBT from elected leaders. Further, LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they will need to move from their hometown in order to feel accepted.
When elected leaders speak out on matters of equality, their positions inform their constituents’ perception of safety, inclusion, and belonging. That’s why HRC’s Municipal Equality Index evaluates leadership in its nationwide survey of municipal law and policy. The first criterion in the leadership category is a rating of city leadership on a scale of zero to five on its public statements on matters of equality. The second criterion rates city leadership on a scale of zero to three on the pursuit of legislation or policy that furthers equality. Kingston, Providence, Cranston, and Warwick will be all be rated on the 2013 Municipal Equality Index, and the statements city leadership have made in favor of equality will certainly be reflected in their scores. So too will the resolutions – like the one passed by the Providence City Council last month – that some city governments have passed in favor of equality.
HRC applauds the outspoken leadership demonstrated by these mayors. HRC is committed to passing marriage equality in Rhode Island, the only remaining state in New England without marriage equality.
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