WASHINGTON, D.C. -- St. Louis has once again earned a perfect score in the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute.

 

A record-setting 78 cities across the nation earned perfect scores in the seventh annual index, including Columbia, Mo., meeting the most demanding and pioneering criteria since the report’s debut in 2012. The MEI is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy and services.

 

The 2018 MEI evolved dramatically this year, instituting new benchmarks ensuring equal access to single-user facilities in public spaces, as well as protecting LGBTQ youth from bullying in city services and from dangerous so-called “conversion therapy.” Additionally, this year the MEI deducted points for laws that that include provisions licensing discrimination against the LGBTQ community. (Kansas City saw a three point drop from 100 to 97 this past year.)

 

But even with these more stringent MEI requirements, cities and municipalities are meeting and exceeding HRC's standards with innovative measures to protect LGBTQ people. The 78 cities earning perfect scores for advancing LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies is up from 68 in 2017 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. And in the current political reality, welcoming cities like these are more important than ever.

 

“From San Antonio, Texas to Brookings, South Dakota -- this year’s MEI again proves that there are no barriers to municipal LGBTQ equality for a city with dedicated, pro-equality elected officials,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life. As we approach one of the most critical elections of our lifetimes, it is incumbent on all of us to make sure that we help elect more leaders across the nation who share this uncompromising commitment to equality for all.”

 

“In this political moment, as we face unprecedented challenges to fairness, justice, and democracy at the federal level, we look to local leadership in advancing equality for the LGBTQ community,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation Institute. “Equality Federation is committed to our partnership with HRC on the Municipal Equality Index because it sets a bar that most localities want to reach.”

 

Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased by more than sevenfold, and today at least 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.

 

Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across the U.S. this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked -- and encouraged -- since 2012. Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 147 municipalities this year -- up from 111 in 2017, 66 in 2015 and just five in 2012. The MEI’s Issue Brief on Transgender-Inclusive Health Benefits is available here.

 

The 2018 MEI marks St. Louis' 7th straight perfect score. Other Missouri cities scored this year include: Columbia (100), Kansas City (97), St. Charles (39), Jefferson City (20), Springfield (19), Independence (18) and Cape Girardeau (0).

 

Other key findings from the 2018 Municipal Equality Index include:

 

  • 103 cities from states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide average of 58 points. These cities averaged 83-point scores; 34 scored a perfect 100.
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  • Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 46“All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 41 last year, 37 in 2016 and just two in 2012.
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  • The national city score average increased from 57 to 58 points. 78 cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 83 points; 50 percent scored over 58 points; 25 percent scored less than 36; and 15 cities scored zero points.
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  • Cities are protecting LGBTQ youth. 17 MEI-rated cities enacted local protections against the harmful and discredited practice of so-called “conversion therapy.”
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