Protection of LGBT citizens and visitors
By Allison Turner
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBT) civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute, released its seventh annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI), assessing LGBT equality in 506 cities across the nation, including 56 in California.
The 2017 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 in the face of renewed attacks this year on the LGBT community by federal and state officials.
For LGBT Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely depending on location — states and cities have markedly different laws governing discrimination. Twenty-one states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for LGBT people in employment, and 20 states have laws that protect LGBT 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 sevenfold, and today at least 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.
The average score for cities in California is 77 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 58.
“From San Antonio, Texas to Brookings, South Dakota — this year’s MEI again proves that there are no barriers to municipal LGBT equality for a city with dedicated, pro-equality elected officials,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBT people from discrimination in all areas of life. As we approach one of the most critical elections of our lifetimes, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that we help elect more leaders across the nation who share this uncompromising commitment to equality for all.”
“Even as California continues to serve as a beacon of hope for LGBT people across the nation, the Municipal Equality Index shows how much work we have left to do right here in our backyard,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur. “We know the fight for civil rights and social justice doesn’t end in Washington, D.C. or Sacramento, and Equality California remains committed to working with cities across the Golden State to create a world that is healthy, just and fully equal for all LGBT people — until the work is done.”
Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across the U.S. this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked — and encouraged — since 2012. Transgender-inclusive health care benefits are offered to employees of 147 municipalities this year — up from 111 in 2017, 66 in 2015 and just five in 2012.
Other key findings from the 2018 MEI include:
From states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBT people, 103 cities scored above the overall nationwide average of 58 points. These cities averaged 83-point scores; 34 scored a perfect 100.
Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 46 “all star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 41 last year, 37 in 2016 and just two in 2012.
The national city score average increased from 57 to 58 points. Seventy-eight cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 83 points; 50 percent scored over 58 points; 25 percent scored less than 36; and 15 cities scored zero points.
Cities are protecting LGBT youth. Seventeen MEI-rated cities enacted local protections against the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”
The MEI rated 506 cities, including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the U.S., the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, 75 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 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBT community. This year’s report also includes two new issue briefs for policymakers: Addressing the Unique Needs of LGBTQ Older People and Working Toward a Fully-Inclusive Municipal Workplace.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online hrc.org/mei.
—The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.
Cathedral City: 94
Chula Vista: 99
Huntington Beach: 61
Long Beach: 100
Los Angeles: 100
Palm Desert: 94
Palm Springs: 100
Rancho Mirage: 100
San Bernardino: 53
San Diego: 100
San Francisco: 100
San Jose: 100
Santa Ana: 55
Santa Monica: 100
West Hollywood: 100