news never been more important most american regions make progress in lgbtq equality
Virginia

‘Never been more important:’ Most American regions make progress in LGBTQ+ equality

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A record-breaking 120 cities in the United States earned a 100-points score in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation’s 11th Annual Municipal Equality Index.

The HRC, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) civil rights organization, partnered with the Equality Federation to release the index as HRC tracks ore than 345 pieces of anti-LGTBQ+ legislation in the country. The index rates municipal policies, laws and services in 506 American cities, including 11 in Virginia.

The average score for Virginia’s cities is 87 out of 100 points, above the national average of 68. Only 11 cities earned 100-points scores in 2012, when the index began.

“LGBTQ+ people everywhere deserve to live in welcoming places that are focused on building equality for all. Since its launch 11 years ago, the main priority of the Municipal Equality Index remains supporting and celebrating the work cities do to serve LGBTQ+ people in the places they call home,” JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs, said in a press release. “This year, we’ve seen a disturbing number of extremist legislators attacking transgender and non-binary youth for no reason other than to erase them and their families. However, we’re seeing local leaders continue to push forward in making equality and inclusion the cornerstone of their cities. By doing so, they have helped to create safe, welcoming spaces for all families while spurring economic growth by signaling to residents, visitors and employers that their city is open to everyone.”

Of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation introduced in state houses across the nation, more than 145 specifically target transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. City leaders and officials are stepping up to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ communities while some state legislators seek to abolish fundamental human rights.

“At a time when anti-LGBTQ+ opponents are using the rights of transgender youth as a political wedge issue, it can be disheartening to be a queer or trans person in this country,” Fran Hutchins, Executive Director of Equality Federation Institute, said in the press release. “But despite the increasing attacks we are seeing on transgender youth in state legislatures, the important work to advance protections for LGBTQ+ people continues at the local level. Often the greatest opportunities for victories to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ people are in the states and cities — where the work is hard but the impact is great. I am encouraged by the work of state and local advocates who keep having the tough conversations, changing hearts and minds, and seeing progress in their communities as a result – we are all better for it.”

Educational briefs are included in the report for policymakers to learn how cities can support transgender individuals with healthcare protections, an issue brief about the reality of how abortion rights affect the LGBTQ+ community and how city governments have the power to implement LGBTQ+ inclusive abortion rights.

“The progress made on a local level for greater LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for all has never been more important. The MEI continues to help guide, shape and inspire more LGBTQ+-inclusive laws and policies in cities of all sizes throughout the nation,” Cathryn Oakley, State Legislative Director & Senior Counsel for the Human Rights Campaign and Founding Author of the Municipal Equality Index, said in the press release. “This program is one of the key ways HRC is able to impact the daily lives of our members, supporters and allies. At a time when extremist state and federal lawmakers are using increased inflammatory rhetoric and enacting anti-LGBTQ+ agendas, it’s inspiring to see municipalities continue to push themselves to better serve their LGBTQ+ communities. I am incredibly proud of this project and of the MEI team who have made this report a vehicle of enduring change and of our partners in communities around the country who have enthusiastically embraced its possibilities.”

Other highlights from this year’s index include the fifth consecutive year that the national average increased with 68 points in 2022. In 2021, 181 cities had transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for municipal employees, but 187 do in 2022. Almost every region of the country has a higher average score than last year.

Despite progress, the federal Equality Act is still necessary because unacceptable laws remain across the U.S. The legislation, according to the press release, would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs and jury service.

The following is a list of Virginia’s cities rated in this year’s index:

  • Alexandria: 100/100
  • Arlington County: 100/100
  • Charlottesville: 79/100
  • Chesapeake: 75/100
  • Fairfax County: 100/100
  • Hampton: 77/100
  • Newport News: 70/100
  • Norfolk: 87/100
  • Richmond: 100/100
  • Roanoke: 86/100
  • Virginia Beach: 100/100

 

 

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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