WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, today released its fourth annual report assessing LGBT equality in 408 cities across the nation, including six in Missouri.


The 2015 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 Missouri, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.


For LGBT Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely from state to state, and city to city. Astonishingly, in 31 states LGBT people are still at risk of being fired, denied housing or refused service because of who they are, and who they love. That's why HRC is leading the fight to pass the Equality Act, which would extend nationwide non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans. The effort to achieve full equality continues, and the MEI remains a crucial tool in evaluating the patchwork of LGBT policies and practices in cities and towns across the nation.


The average score for cities in Missouri is 55 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 56. Columbia: 74, Independence: 17, Jefferson City: 12, Kansas City: 100, Springfield: 28, St. Louis: 100.


“Across our country, cities and towns both big and small aren’t waiting for state or national leaders to move LGBT equality forward,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Instead, these municipalities are taking action now to improve the lives of countless LGBT Americans. In what has been an historic year for equality, a record-breaking number of municipalities this year have earned top scores in our Municipal Equality Index for their inclusive treatment of their LGBT citizens and workers. They are making a powerful statement that no one should have to wait for full equality - the time is now.”


"This year, an unprecedented wave of discriminatory legislation attempted to roll-back our efforts for LGBT equality,” said Rebecca Isaacs of the Equality Federation. “Despite that challenge, over 20 towns and municipalities passed non-discrimination ordinances, some in the most unexpected places. These wins, along with historic LGBT visibility, speak to the tenacity of our advocates all across the country, many of whom donate their time to achieve fairness and equality. The MEI is an important tool for our movement that illustrates our successes and the work ahead of us. We will not stop until all Americans have a fair opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, free from the scourge of discrimination."


“The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) has become an incredible tool for advocates on the ground. The roadmap it provides to local officials is a sensible way for cities to advance basic equality issues and, at the same time, provide education on the impact of these broader issues,” said PROMO Executive Director Steph Perkins. “In a state like Missouri, where there is no statewide law providing protections for employment, housing or public accommodations, we believe that the local advancements identified in the MEI put us that much closer to a full, statewide change.”


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 cities researched for the 2015 MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the five largest cities in every state, the city home to the 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.


Forty-seven cities earned perfect 100-point scores, up from 38 in 2014, 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. This year’s MEI marks the largest number of 100-point scores in its history. Kansas City and St. Louis earned a 100-point score, helping to set a standard of LGBT inclusiveness with exemplary policies ranging from non-discrimination laws and equal employee benefits, to cutting edge city services.


Other findings contained in the 2015 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;
• 47 cities received perfect scores, even with this year’s more demanding criteria; that’s up from 38 in 2014, 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012;
• Cities continue to excel even without depending on state law: of cities that scored a perfect 100, 19 are in states that don’t have a statewide non-discrimination law; that’s up from 15 cities last year, eight cities in 2013, 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 56 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 77 points; 25 percent scored under 31 points; and five 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 41 criteria falling under five broad categories:


• Non-discrimination laws
• 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 at www.hrc.org/mei.

 

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