ByMax Disposti | North County Update
Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases the Municipality Equality Index (MEI) scorecard, a nationwide evaluation of municipal law, rating 353 cities on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people that live and work there.
Last year in North San Diego County, only two cities made the 2014 survey: Escondido and Oceanside.
The city of Oceanside was ranked among the lowest in the state with a score of 57 (out of 100) and Escondido had a 60.
After the scores were made public, we went to investigate the reasons why the city of Oceanside had scored so low in spite of the visibility efforts of our local LGBT community (we reported this last year in our column [see “North County Update: the impact of Inclusivity,” Vol. 5, Issue 24].
Apparently, the outcome of the score was given in grand part because the MEI survey was never filled out and returned to HRC. However, that bad score was also an opportunity for us to follow up with the city and to make some changes in the process.
The result is astonishing! This year the city of Oceanside has ranked a full 97 percent!
How has this happened? HR policies were made more inclusive, LGBT liaisons for the city were established, as well as for the police and fire department. Health insurances were selected with trans-related inclusive benefits, and the city dedicated some of their Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funding to support our new Center’s space. Also city proclamations were made in support of our local LGBT community, including the one coming up in October for Oceanside Diversity Awareness Month.
However, what is more striking were the efficiency and determination of many city staff and elected officials to implement these changes. From the HR office, our City Manager, the Director of Neighborhood Services Margery Pierce and Councilmember Esther Sanchez, all have contributed to this success.
Oceanside is becoming a beacon of hope and inclusiveness for LGBT visibility within the San Diego North County area, but Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Fallbrook, Encinitas and Carlsbad are in our hearts as well and we hope to implement similar changes as we move along with visibility and growth.
On a side note Pride by the Beach is soon approaching on Saturday, Oct. 10 from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
This family-friendly event has drawn more people each year and the collaboration of the City of Oceanside and the local business community has made Oceanside a safe space for our North County LGBT families and individuals.
San Diegans, get on the Coaster and enjoy a day with your cousins from the North! Explore our local town, local breweries, good food and music and the many activities that Pride has to offer. Our Speaker of the House Toni Atkins will be there in support as well.
—Max Disposti is a human rights activist, a community organizer and the founder and executive director of the North County LGBTQ Resource Center. He is currently also serving on the boards of the Oceanside City Library and Main Street Oceanside and previously served on the city’s Community Relations Commission. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.