The ‘state of LGBT equality’ in 55 California cities
San Diego and five others receive perfect scores
By the Human Rights Campaign
Many municipalities extend vital protections to their LGBT citizens and The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released its third annual report assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities across the nation — including 55 in California — on Nov. 12.
The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in California, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.
The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:
non-discrimination laws; relationship recognition; municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage; contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees; inclusiveness of city services; law enforcement; and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
The average score for the cities rated in California is 73 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 59. Anaheim: 67, Bakersfield: 54, Berkeley: 95, Brisbane: 51, Cathedral City: 90, Chula Vista: 61, Concord: 62, Corona: 63, Elk Grove: 76, Escondido: 60, Fontana: 59, Fort Collins: 62, Fremont: 84, Fresno: 67, Fullerton: 58, Garden Grove: 59, Glendale: 61, Guerneville: 74, Hayward: 58, Huntington Beach: 72, Irvine: 68, Lancaster: 88, Long Beach: 100, Los Angeles: 100, Modesto: 63, Moreno Valley: 64, Oakland: 93, Oceanside: 57, Ontario: 65, Orange: 68, Oxnard: 61, Palm Springs: 100, Palmdale: 66, Pasadena: 76, Pomona: 76, Rancho Cucamonga: 59, Rancho Mirage: 93, Richmond: 80, Riverside: 75, Sacramento: 87, Salinas: 59, San Bernardino: 67, San Diego: 100, San Francisco: 100, San Jose: 88, Santa Ana: 59, Santa Clarita: 69, Santa Rosa: 81, Signal Hill: 93, Stockton: 79, Sunnyvale: 69, Thousand Oaks: 64, Torrance: 63, Vallejo: 74, Visalia: 48, West Hollywood: 100.
“From Mississippi to Idaho, mid-size cities and small towns have become the single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality — changing countless lives for the better,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a press release. “In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks for their treatment of LGBT citizens has more than tripled. Simply put, in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law, and it’s time our state and federal laws caught up.”
Key findings contained in the MEI, issued in partnership with the Equality Federation, provide a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality in 353 municipalities of varying sizes, and from every state in the nation.
“In many municipalities, local leaders are taking important steps to provide LGBT people with the protections and security not available at the state or federal level,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation. “And because of this leadership, many cities and counties are emerging as welcoming communities where LGBT people are treated with the dignity and respect they’ve always deserved. Municipal victories are fueling the movement for equality in states across this nation. The Municipal Equality Index is a terrific tool to help spur those victories along and celebrate the cities who have worked so hard to get us to this point.”
“The Municipal Equality Index reveals a ‘tale of two Californias,’” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California in the release. “Most of our larger cities and more progressive municipalities like Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco have perfect or near-perfect scores, while many other cities —particularly in the Central Valley, Orange County and more rural areas — fall far short of the mark.
“Even in California there’s still much work to be done, and Equality California will continue to lead the way with important education campaigns in the Central Valley and other rural parts of the state,” Zbur said.
The cities researched for the 2014 MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the four largest cities in every state, the city home to each state’s largest public university, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
Thirty-eight cities earned perfect 100-point scores nationally, up from 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. In California, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, San Diego, San Francisco and West Hollywood all earned 100-point scores, helping to set a standard of LGBT inclusiveness with exemplary policies ranging from non-discrimination laws and equal employee benefits, to cutting edge city services.
Other nationwide findings contained in the 2014 MEI:
- Cities in all regions of the country earned excellent scores, demonstrating that commitment to LGBT equality is not confined to parts of the country many people assume are most LGBT friendly.
- 38 cities received perfect scores, even with this year’s more demanding criteria; that’s up from 11 in 2012, and 25 in 2013.
- Cities continue to excel even without depending on state law: Of cities that scored a perfect 100, 15 are in states that don’t have comprehensive relationship recognition or a statewide non-discrimination law; that’s up from eight cities last year, and just two in 2012.
- 32 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state or the federal government.
- The average city score was 59 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 80 points; 25 percent scored under 44 points; and four percent scored fewer than 10 points.
- Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples tended, not surprisingly, to score better, and the presence of openly-LGBT city officials and LGBT police liaisons also were correlated with higher scores.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at hrc.org/mei.
—The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.