The Human Rights Campaign has created a series of indexes and reports on the status of LGBTQ equality in the U.S. The latest, the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), details the rankings of cities in all 50 states. Philadelphia landed a perfect score. Using metrics in five main areas with subsets within those five areas, HRC ranks how well a city is doing for its LGBTQ citizens, with the top score being 100.
The MEI is specific: It examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality. There are also “bonus” areas for attention to the most vulnerable within the LGBTQ community, like youth and TGNC people.
The 2019 MEI is the seventh annual edition, and it’s massive, rating a total of 506 cities on 49 different criteria from every state in the nation.
The MEI demonstrates the ways that many cities can, and do, support LGBTQ people who live and work there, even where states and the federal government have failed to do so.
In Pennsylvania, HRC ranked 10 cities, and, along with Philadelphia, three others received perfect scores. The lowest-ranked was Harrisburg, at 69. Allentown (100), Carlisle (86), Erie (75), Harrisburg (69), New Hope (89), Philadelphia (100), Pittsburgh (100), Reading (91), State College (100) and Wilkes-Barre (90). Lancaster was notably not on the list.
HRC ranked 12 New Jersey cities: Asbury Park (96), Elizabeth (71), Hoboken (100), Jersey City (100), Lambertville (86), Montclair (71), New Brunswick (66), Newark (61), Ocean Grove (89), Paterson (62), Princeton (100),Trenton (61) and Woodbury (100). Atlantic City was not included.
The first category listed in the rankings is nondiscrimination laws, which evaluates whether the city, county or state prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations. The two bonus areas were single-occupancy all-gender facilities and whether gay and trans youth were protected from conversion therapy, something out Rep. Brian Sims (Dist. 182), along with out Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta (Dist. 181), is fighting for statewide
The next category is the municipality as an employer, with the areas addressed being whether a municipality offers equivalent benefits and protections to LGBTQ employees, awards contracts to fair-minded businesses, takes steps to ensure an inclusive workplace and if municipalities commit themselves to treating LGBTQ employees equally.
Other areas considered in the rankings are nondiscrimination in city employment, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and having a city contractor nondiscrimination ordinance and inclusive workplace. Bonus areas in this category include city employee domestic partner benefits.
The next section, municipal services, assesses the efforts of the city to ensure LGBTQ constituents are included in city services and programs. Additionally, this includes having a Human Rights Commission, enforcement of rulings by the Human Rights Commission and having an LGBTQ liaison in the city’s executive office, as Philadelphia has in the mayor’s office.
The bonus areas in this section focused on measures for vulnerable groups within the LGBTQ community: anti-bullying prevention policy for LGBTQ youth in city services and other services specific to LGBTQ youth as well as city services for trans people. Also included are city services for LGBTQ elders, the homeless population and people with HIV/AIDS.
The next area of concern is law enforcement, which can be complex with regard to LGBTQ people who are disproportionately targeted by police. Fair enforcement of the law includes responsible reporting of hate crimes and engaging with the LGBTQ community in a thoughtful and respectful way.
This category also looked at whether or not the city had a liaison or task force to the police department for the LGBTQ community and whether they reported hate crime statistics to the FBI. Again, Philadelphia has an LGBTQ Police Liaison Committee.
The final category is leadership on LGBTQ equality. This category measures the city leadership’s commitment to include the LGBTQ community fully and to advocate for equality. This included leadership’s public position on LGBTQ equality and leadership’s pro-equality legislation or policy efforts.
Bonus areas are whether there are openly LGBTQ elected or appointed municipal leaders and whether a city tests the limits of a restrictive state government.
HRC also included a series of FAQs on pertinent issues, including “Working Toward a Fully Inclusive Municipal Workplace,” “The Imperative for Responsible Hate Crime Reporting,” “Addressing an Epidemic of Anti-Transgender Violence: What Cities Can Do” and “Addressing the Unique Needs of LGBTQ Older People.”
The full index can be viewed on HRC’s website, where all the FAQs and HRC’S other indexes can be read.