At a time when many states have failed to pass LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies, cities are stepping up to ensure that all citizens are treated equally, according to a report issued today by HRC.
HRC’s 2017 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that around the country cities are fueling momentum for LGBTQ equality -- and often are doing so in states that still don’t have LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws at the state level.
In Ohio, Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo earned over 85 points on the 2017 MEI despite hailing from a state without LGBTQ-inclusive statewide non-discrimination laws. Across the country, 41 cities like these set a standard of LGBTQ inclusiveness with exemplary, best-practice policies such as local non-discrimination laws, providing transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees and offering LGBTQ-inclusive city services.
Shining like beacons of hope, Akron, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Toledo earned one of HRC’s 41 MEI “All Star” designations. MEI All Stars are cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ equality without relying on state law. This year, Akron earned a 100, Cincinnati earned a 100, Columbus earned a 100, Dayton earned a 100 and Toledo earned an 89.
The average score for cities in Ohio is 87 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 57.
“This year’s MEI paints a vivid picture: cities big and small, in red and blue states alike, are continuing our progress toward full equality, regardless of the political drama unfolding in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Today, the MEI serves as a vital tool for business leaders and municipal officials alike when it comes to economic development. CEOs know that in order to attract and retain the best employees, they must grow their companies in places that protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination and actively open their doors to all communities. The MEI is the best tool to help these businesses make crucial evaluations about the welcoming -- or unwelcoming -- nature of towns and cities across the nation.”
“The beautiful part of working locally for change is that it is within your reach. We have worked with people of all ages who have never knocked on the door of city council, and who are now coaching others on how to talk with elected officials,” said Alana Jochum, executive director of Equality Ohio. “The relationships built in cities we've worked in over the last several months like Lakewood, Youngstown, Akron, Olmsted Falls and Kent between citizens and elected officials have grown hearts, changed minds, and created lasting, positive change for LGBTQ people. HRC's Municipal Equality Index is an important tool for getting this work done -- it serves as a roadmap and a reminder of the work still ahead.”
Earlier this year, HRC opened a new frontier in the fight against the Pence-Trump agenda and advancing equality by launching HRC Rising, the largest grassroots expansion in the organization's 37-year history. The campaign is focused on mobilizing voters in six key states, including Ohio. While four cities in Ohio have scored 100 on this year's MEI, HRC Rising aims to accelerate progress statewide by resisting the politics of hate, fighting anti-LGBTQ legislation, and fueling pro-equality candidates and initiatives in Ohio, to ensure that the rights of LGBTQ Americans do not depend on where they live. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, HRC has identified more than 1,550,000 Ohioans as likely Equality Voters -- those who are strong supporters of policies that advance LGBTQ equality, including marriage equality and other measures prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased by more than sixfold, and today at least 24 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 America this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked -- and encouraged -- since 2012. Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 111 municipalities this year -- up from 86 in 2016, 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 2017 Municipal Equality Index include:
- 86 cities from states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide average of 57 points. These cities averaged 84-point scores; 28 scored a perfect 100.
- Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 41“All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 37 last year, 31 in 2016, 15 in 2014, eight in 2013, and just two in 2012.
- The national city score average increased from 55 to 57 points. 68 cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 79 points; 50 percent scored over 59 points; 25 percent scored less than 36; and 11 cities scored zero points.
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, 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 44 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. Starting in 2018, the MEI will introduce new criteria including protecting youth from “conversion therapy” and will deduct points for religious exemptions that allow discrimination by singling out LGBTQ people.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.