Cities and municipalities are adopting more LGBTQ-inclusive laws, policies and services even as more LGBTQ-legislation is considered at the state level, according to a report from the Human Rights Campaign.
What’s new: The organization’s annual Municipal Equality Index, which rates the municipal laws, policies and services of cities based on how inclusive they are for LGBTQ residents and city workers, saw an increase in the number of cities receiving perfect scores and the highest-ever national average since the 2012 inaugural index.
Important to know: While the index evaluates each city on the inclusiveness of policies under the municipality’s control, it does not rate cities based on atmosphere or quality of life for LGBTQ residents, according to Kate Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel at HRC.
The big picture: Despite many states considering or passing anti-LGBTQ legislation including book bans in schools, bans on gender-affirming care for transgender young people and restrictions on discussions of LGBTQ topics in elementary school classrooms, many local leaders are taking steps to support rights for LGBTQ residents and city workers.
Municipalities consistently becoming more LGBTQ-inclusive in laws, policies
The index rated more than 500 cities in its report, including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the U.S., the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, and the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities. Its 2022 scorecard rates municipalities based on nondiscrimination laws, how LGBTQ-inclusive the city is as an employer and the city leadership’s record on LGBTQ equality, among other criteria.
A record number of 120 cities earned the highest score of 100 in 2022, up from 11 in the 2012 inaugural index, according to HRC. The national city score average rose to an all-time high of 68 points: the fifth consecutive year of national average increases, all while the organization has tightened standards for credit in key areas, Oakley said.
Almost all cities with scores of 100 reported hate crime statistics to the FBI, have an LGBTQ liaison to the city executive and had contractor nondiscrimination policies including gender identity.
Receiving high points on the index doesn’t happen overnight. City leaders have often spent years building up LGBTQ equality in city policies to earn high scores on the index’s criteria, Oakley said.
“These are cities that are really doing the most on their own,” she said. “These cities have really gone out there and year after year and demonstrated a commitment. … These cities have invested over time.”
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Some cities in states without non-discrimination laws fill protection gaps
Data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union shows that more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures in 2022. The wave of legislation most significantly affects young people, who identify as LGBTQ at the highest rates generationally.
Despite that rise, 80 cities in 20 U.S. states that lack nondiscrimination statutes explicitly protecting sexuality and gender identity earned over 85 points on the index, up from 74 municipalities in 2021 and just five in 2012, according to the report.
Those cities are filling in gaps in state protections with municipal legislation around nondiscrimination, trans-inclusive health benefits for city employees and LGBTQ-inclusive services for residents, Oakley said.
“I do think it’s important at a national level to shed light on truly how absurd the claims are that are being made in these really gerrymandered state legislatures, because the people who are responsible for responding to their communities have gone a completely different direction,” she said.
Many of the cities who received high scores on this year’s index found progress in blocking out divisive rhetoric at the state level by listening to the personal needs of their community members, Oakley said.
“I think we’re able to see cities be able to kind of sidestep the nastiness, because of those personal connections … these local politicians have a sense of place, have a sense of community, have a sense of what makes us special,” she said. “I think that when cities are focused on what makes us special, it takes them away from this idea of dividing people apart.”
Story Credit: usatoday.com