HRC in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute, released its sixth annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI), assessing LGBTQ equality in 506 cities across the nation, including 10 in Pennsylvania.
The 2017 Municipal Equality Index, the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in Pennsylvania,, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBTQ people and workers -- even in face of renewed attacks this year on the LGBTQ community by federal and state officials.
For LGBTQ Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely depending on location -- states and cities have markedly different laws governing discrimination. 20 states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for LGBTQ people in employment, and 19 states have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in places of public accommodation. But cities are leading the way: since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased 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.
The average score for cities in Pennsylvania is 75 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 57.
New Hope: 80
State College: 73
“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.”
“Pennsylvania is making great strides in becoming a more equal state. Unfortunately, this is happening one municipality at a time. Obstructionist ultraconservatives in the Pennsylvania legislature have blocked fourteen years of passing a statewide nondiscrimination ban. This hold was solidified with the 2016 General Election, in which numerous stalwart supporters were ousted from their Pennsylvania House and Senate seats,” said Equality Pennsylvania Interim Executive Director John Dawe. “This year, Pittsburgh and Allentown will receive a 100 point score for the first time. They join Philadelphia, a 100 point city in the MEI since the inaugural report in 2012. Pittsburgh was the first city to pass a local conversion therapy ban in the state, followed by Philadelphia and Allentown.”
Dawe continued, “Ambler Borough, Dickson City, Wilkes-Barre City, Carlisle, Kennett Square, Phoenixville, Royersford, Camp Hill, Stroudsburg, and Upper Dublin Township each passed nondiscrimination ordinances, taking the state total to 44.”
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 Pennsylvania. While three cities in Pennsylvania 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 Pennsylvania, 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 2,005,000 Pennsylvanians 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.