Today, HRC announced that a record-setting 78 cities across the nation earned perfect scores in the seventh annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI), meeting the most demanding and pioneering criteria since the report’s debut in 2012. The MEI is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy and services.
The 2018 MEI evolved dramatically this year, instituting new benchmarks ensuring equal access to single-user facilities in public spaces, as well as protecting LGBTQ youth from bullying in city services and from dangerous so-called “conversion therapy.” Additionally, this year the MEI deducted points for laws that include provisions licensing discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
But even with these more stringent MEI requirements, cities and municipalities are meeting and exceeding our standards with innovative measures to protect LGBTQ people. A record 78 cities earned perfect scores for advancing LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies -- up from 68 in 2017 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. And in the current political reality, welcoming cities like these are more important than ever.
“From San Antonio, Texas to Brookings, South Dakota -- this year’s MEI again proves that there are no barriers to municipal LGBTQ equality for a city with dedicated, pro-equality elected officials,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life.”
“In this political moment, as we face unprecedented challenges to fairness, justice, and democracy at the federal level, we look to local leadership in advancing equality for the LGBTQ community,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation Institute. “Equality Federation is committed to our partnership with HRC on the Municipal Equality Index because it sets a bar that most localities want to reach.”
Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased by more than sevenfold, and today at least 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.
Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across the U.S. this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked -- and encouraged -- since 2012. Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 147 municipalities this year -- up from 111 in 2017, 66 in 2015 and just five in 2012. The MEI’s Issue Brief on Transgender-Inclusive Health Benefits is available here.
Other key findings from the 2018 Municipal Equality Index include:
103 cities from states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide average of 58 points. These cities averaged 83-point scores; 34 scored a perfect 100.
Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 46“All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 41 last year, 37 in 2016 and just two in 2012.
The national city score average increased from 57 to 58 points. 78 cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 83 points; 50 percent scored over 58 points; 25 percent scored less than 36; and 15 cities scored zero points.
Cities are protecting LGBTQ youth. 17 MEI-rated cities enacted local protections against the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”
The MEI rated 506 cities including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, 75 municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. This year’s report also includes two new issue briefs for policymakers: Addressing the Unique Needs of LGBTQ Older People and Working Toward a Fully-Inclusive Municipal Workplace.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.