Arizona. Colorado. Florida. Georgia. Iowa. Minnesota. Nevada. New Hampshire. North Carolina. Ohio. Pennsylvania. Virginia. Wisconsin.

Many of these are “battleground states,” poised to play an important deciding role in who will win the upcoming presidential election. And in some, the number of potential LGBTQ voters exceeds the state’s margin of victory for the presidential candidate in 2012 national election, leaving no doubt about the influence of LGBTQ voters.

Unfortunately, many of these states also lack statewide protections for its LGBTQ residents. So while some cities are pushing to become more LGBTQ-inclusive, a lack of statewide protections means that the cities must do more to earn perfect scores on HRC Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, released this week in partnership with Equality Federation. The outcome of the election will have a profound impact on the lives of LGBTQ residents at the local, state and national levels.

Some states have restrictive legislation that prohibits cities from from passing LGBTQ-inclusive laws, while others apply the Dillon’s Rule, which prevents cities from providing broader nondiscrimination protections than those offered under state law.

Because of these types of restrictions, not every city has the power to enact the types of legislation that the MEI measures. For example, cities looking to advance equality in Virginia and North Carolina, both battleground states, face such restrictions and so are unable to score as well as fair-minded cities in states without the restrictive laws.

Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is just one example. Chapel Hill earned a rating of 68 on the 2016 MEI, up from 55 in 2015. The city has improved in a number of areas, including law enforcement and its relationship to the LGBTQ community. It even earned 14 bonus points this year. But though the city has shown steady progress on equality, it still has a long way to go to be fully inclusive, due in no small part to state-level restrictions such as HB2.

On Thursday, we’ll explore some of the MEI’s All-Star Cities, which have been able to achieve high scores despite being in states with restrictive laws.

Filed under: Vote Equality

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