Record 120 Cities Get Perfect Score on HRC Municipal Equality Index
A record 120 cities have earned a perfect 100 score on this year’s Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index, which rates cities on antidiscrimination laws, benefits for public employees, and other factors that contribute to a positive climate for LGBTQ+ people.
That number is up from 110 in the 2021 index and just 11 in its inaugural year, 2012, “illustrating the striking advancements municipalities have made despite some being in states that have seen increased extremist-led anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation,” notes an HRC press release. The HRC Foundation released the index in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute.
“LGBTQ+ people everywhere deserve to live in welcoming places that are focused on building equality for all,” JoDee Winterhof, HRC senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said in the release. “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. This year, we’ve seen a disturbing number of extremist state legislators attacking transgender and nonbinary youth for no reason other than to try 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.”
“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,” added Fran Hutchins, executive sirector of Equality Federation Institute. “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.”
The index includes cities as small as Rehoboth Beach, Del., population 1,327, and as large as New York City, population 8 million. Some of the rating criteria are flexible to assure that the efforts of small and medium-sized cities are recognized just as much as those of large cities. This year’s index rated 506 cities total, including the nation’s 200 largest cities, all state capitals, the five largest cities in each state, the cities home to each state’s two largest public universities, the small, medium, and large cities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples, and other cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state groups’ members and supporters. There is some overlap between these categories.
To illustrate that municipalities can provide a positive environment for LGBTQ+ people even in hostile states, the report points out that in 20 states that lack LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws, 80 cities scored at least 85 points on the index. This is up from 74 in 2021 and just five in 2012.
Other key findings include that 187 cities have transgender-inclusive health care benefits for municipal employees, up from 181 in 2021; the national city score average jumped to an all-time high of 68 points, up from 67 points last year, marking the fifth consecutive year of national average increases; and that almost every region of the country saw a higher average score than last year.
Among the success stories highlighted in the report is Dublin, Ohio, which scored a perfect 100 in a state that lacks an inclusive antidiscrimination law. However, its City Council enacted an inclusive municipal nondiscrimination law last year, and the city has added two LGBTQ+ liaison positions. “Our vision is to be the most sustainable, connected and resilient global city of choice for all,” Mayor Jane Fox wrote in the report.
“The progress made on a local level for greater LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for all has never been more important,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for HRC and founding author of the Municipal Equality Index, noted in the press release. “The MEI continues to help guide, shape and inspire more LGBTQ+-inclusive laws and policies in cities of all sizes throughout the nation. 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 cities 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.”