"In too many communities, LGBT Americans continue to face barriers to equality, overt discrimination, and even violence."
In historic year for LGBT equality, crucial progress continues at municipal level as local leaders and advocates drive positive change in their communities.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced that a record number of U.S. cities have achieved perfect scores on its 2015 Municipal Equality Index by establishing fully-inclusive local protections for LGBT people. The most notable trend in the annual report is the rapidly growing number of cities and towns across the nation stepping up to ensure that all people are treated equally, even in states where fully-inclusive LGBT laws and policies remain elusive.
Since the MEI debuted in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has more than quadrupled, and today at least 32 million people live in cities with fully-inclusive local protections that are not guaranteed by the states in which they live. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation is the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.
However, while the HRC Foundation’s 2015 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that, in every state in the nation, cities large and small are fueling momentum for LGBT equality, much work remains. Equality in many cities, particularly those in America’s southern regions, continues to be elusive, with too many municipalities still failing to protect their LGBT residents and employees.
Cities are proving, however, that they can ensure equality even in states that are lagging behind in enacting LGBT-inclusive laws and policies. New top-scoring cities this year include Louisville, Kentucky; Detroit, Michigan; and Bloomington, Indiana, which are among the MEI’s 31 “All Stars”- cities paving the way on LGBT equality in states that still lack fully-inclusive LGBT non-discrimination laws.
Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across America this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked each year. To earn perfect scores, cities must embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws and policies that often go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government.
"While this has been an historic year for equality, we are constantly reminded of just how far we still have to go,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “In too many communities, LGBT Americans continue to face barriers to equality, overt discrimination, and even violence. We believe those challenges make full equality and strong legal protections all the more important, and today's report makes clear that hundreds of local communities throughout all 50 states wholeheartedly agree.”
Other key findings contained in the MEI, issued in partnership with the Equality Federation, provide a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality in 408 municipalities of varying sizes, and from every state in the nation. The report also includes two issue briefs - the first focuses on actions cities should take immediately to address anti-transgender violence in their community; the second underscores the continued importance of offering city employees domestic partner benefits.
“Across the nation, cities and towns are leading the way on equality for millions of LGBT Americans,” Griffin added. “This year, a record number of communities have earned top scores in our Municipal Equality Index because they’ve extended fully-inclusive benefits and protections to LGBT people and their families. What makes this progress especially remarkable is that these cities and towns are often going above and beyond state and federal laws to ensure LGBT residents and visitors are protected and treated equally."
HRC researched hundreds of cities for the 2015 MEI, including all 50 state capitals, the nation’s 200 most populous cities, the five largest cities in every state, the communities home to each state’s two largest public universities, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
Key findings from the 2015 Municipal Equality Index include:
The MEI rates cities based on 41 criteria that fall into five broad categories:
The MEI’s standard criteria for earning points this year no longer includes relationship recognition due to the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision affirming nationwide marriage equality, and it now places greater emphasis on non-discrimination protections. The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei
The original rainbow flag, called the Freedom Flag, was devised by Gilbert Baker in 1978. The design has undergone several revisions since its debut with 8 colored stripes, and today the most common variant consists of 6 stripes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.
Picture of Gilbert Baker's original Freedom Flag showing the meaning of the 8 colors.