Post submitted by Brian McBride, former HRC Digital Strategist

Local leaders of Brookings, South Dakota, knew they had problem.

In 2013, when city officials received a preliminary score of 12 out of 100 on the HRC’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI), they began to embark on a multiyear effort to achieve a perfect 100 score.

Local leaders, including Brookings City Clerk Shari Thornes, Human Rights Commission Chair Steve Bayer and City Attorney Steve Britzman, immediately began working out what they could do better to help make their community a more welcoming and affirming place for LGBTQ people.  

The city of Brookings -- a town of roughly 22,000 -- started identifying a strategy, tackling goals each year to make the small town more inclusive. Their efforts included putting together LGBTQ community liaisons in all three of their local law enforcement agencies as well as working with the Brookings High School and the university with their GSA programs and the students.

Their tireless efforts began to pay off and each year their score improved. It wasn’t until the city finally adopted a non-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity that their initial 12 point draft score finally reached a perfect 100 on the 2018 MEI.

Brookings is proof that even a small community can make a huge impact toward achieving LGBTQ equality.

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of LGBTQ people who live and work there. The index rates a total of 506 cities on 49 different criteria from every state in the nation. The full MEI report, including detailed scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available online at

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