State of LGBT equality in nine Virginia cities detailed in HRC New Municipal Equality Index

gay-equalityThe Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today released its third annual report assessing lgbt equality in 353 cities across the nation, including nine in Virginia.

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 Virginia, continue to take the lead in supporting lgbt people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.

The average score for cities in Virginia is 58 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 59. Alexandria: 94, Arlington County: 96, Chesapeake: 37, Fairfax County: 60, Hampton: 32, Newport News: 37, Norfolk: 59, Richmond: 57, Virginia Beach: 47.

“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 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.”

“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. 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,” said Rebecca Issacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation.  “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.”

“Now that Virginia has gained the freedom to marry, we are among a handful of states where lgbt people can marry the person they love, but can still be fired at work based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “While Virginia’s Dillon rule challenges the work we can do at the ground level to protect lgbt employees by keeping the power in the General Assembly, Equality Virginia encourages cities and counties to lead the way and build momentum, for example, by passing enumerated bullying policies, electing pro-equality leaders, and strengthening the relationship with the lgbt community.   All of these efforts go a long way in moving equality forward in Virginia.”

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. 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.

Other 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 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
-Municipal leadership on matters of equality

The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online atwww.hrc.org/mei.

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