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100+ U.S. Cities receive top scores in annual Municipal Equality Index

A record-setting number of 100 point scores & highest-ever national average show that localities continue to lead the way on LGBTQ+ inclusion

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HRC headquarters, Washington D.C. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – Earlier this month the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation  in partnership with The Equality Federation, released its 10th annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI) report. According to the Washington D.C. based non-profit a record-breaking 110 cities earned the highest score of 100, which is up from 11 in 2012, the MEI’s inaugural year, illustrating the striking advancements municipalities have made over the past 10 years.

LGBTQ+ people are everywhere—in every city, county and ZIP code. Throughout its 10 year history, the Municipal Equality Index has been centered on supporting and celebrating the work municipalities do to serve LGBTQ+ people in the places they call home,” said JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs in a press statement.

This year, state-wide lawmakers have zeroed in on attacking transgender and non-binary children—for no reason other than in an effort to harm and erase them. Local leaders, however, have continued to move the needle of progress forward, and by doing so, they have spurred economic growth by signaling to residents, visitors and employers that their city is open to everyone,” Winterhof added.

In 20 states across the country, 74 cities earned over 85 points despite hailing from a state without non-discrimination statutes that explicitly protect sexual orientation and gender identity, which is up from five municipalities in 2012. These municipalities set a standard of LGBTQ+ inclusion by prioritizing measures such as enacting comprehensive non-discrimination laws, providing transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees, and providing services for particularly vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

However as anti-LGBTQ+ laws are proposed and then passed by various state legislatures, especially targeting Trans people, local non-discrimination statutes that explicitly protect sexual orientation and gender identity become critical.

In Springfield, Missouri, the News-Leader newspaper noted that Springfield’s score from HRC this year was just 53 points out of a possible 100. The national average was 67. Columbia, Kansas City and St. Louis all scored 100.

“Kind of sad,” is how Nick Clinton-Elliott, executive director of Springfield’s GLO Center, described the Queen City’s showing in the Human Rights Campaign’s most recent report on LGBT equality the paper reported.

“I’m disappointed to see that Springfield is that far behind the national average,” Clinton-Elliott told the News-Leader a few days before Thanksgiving. “But we are seeing some growth, and that’s encouraging. We just have a lot of work to do.”

The city’s chief spokesperson, Cora Scott, told the News-Leader in a written statement that for several years the city has made “concentrated efforts” to do better on LGBT issues.

“We do not take issue with the scorecard,” Scott said, “however, we always look beyond the compliance of any one particular scorecard when it comes to our efforts to embrace inclusive excellence.”

Overall the News-Leader reported, Springfield’s score shows improvement over time on LGBT matters. In 2017, the last time the News-Leader reported on the campaign’s city-level ratings, Springfield scored just 21 points. (The national average that year was 57 points.) In 2019, Springfield’s score was 35. Last year, it was 47.

Even though local leaders continue to pave the way forward on equality, there remains an unacceptable patchwork of laws for LGBTQ+ people across the country. This reinforces the need for the federal Equality Act that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

The MEI rated 506 cities including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the U.S., the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, the 75 municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 49 criteria covering citywide non-discrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement and the city’s leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

Other significant findings from the 2021 MEI include:

  • This year, 181 cities have transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for municipal employees—up from 179 in 2020, despite more rigorous standards this year, and only five at the start of the MEI.
  • The national city score average jumped to an all-time high of 67 points, up from 64 last year and 59 in 2012, marking both the fourth consecutive year of national average increases as well as the highest year-over-year national average growth ever.
    • As a marker of the change that ten editions of the MEI have brought, cities rated by the MEI in 2012 averaged 59 points then; in 2021, those cities averaged 85 points.
    • 11 cities scored 100 points in the 2012 MEI; ten times that number did so in 2021, the tenth edition.
  • Cities around the country saw progress, with every region of the country seeing a higher average score than last year.
  • 43 municipalities have anti-conversion therapy ordinances in states with no state-level protections, up from 38 last year.
  • The tenth edition of the MEI tells a story of sustained, transformational growth in cities of every size in every region of the country. While state legislatures attacked LGBTQ+ people in a historically difficult legislative session, cities focused on solving actual problems.

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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LGBTQ+ activists alarmed over concurring opinion in abortion ruling

Thomas called for the high court to “reconsider” previous decisions overturning state sodomy laws and legalizing same-sex marriage

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas (Screenshot/YouTube CBS News)

WASHINGTON – LGBTQ+ activists have expressed alarm over a concurring opinion issued on Friday by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas calling for the high court to “reconsider” previous decisions overturning state sodomy laws and legalizing same-sex marriage as a follow-up to the court’s controversial ruling on Friday to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion rights.

In an action that drew expressions of outrage from abortion rights advocates and strong support by right-to-life advocates, the Supreme Court handed down a 6-3 ruling on Friday overturning the fundamental right to an abortion that the court established nearly 50 years ago in its landmark decision known as Roe v. Wade.

In his concurring opinion, Thomas said he supports the high court’s majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. He states that he agrees with the ruling that nothing in the majority opinion “should be understood to cast doubt on precedents that do not concern abortion.”

But he also states that in potential future cases, “we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

He was referring to the past Supreme Court Griswold ruling that overturned state laws banning or restricting birth control such as contraceptives; the high court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling that overturned state laws banning sodomy between consenting adults; and the 2015 Obergefell ruling that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

“Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion is obviously concerning, but it is important to note that not one other justice agreed with him,” said Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights advocacy group. “In fact, the majority took pains to disagree with him and clarify that this opinion relates only to abortion. Justice Thomas stands alone,” Warbelow told the Washington Blade in a statement.

“With that said, we know that if the Court was willing to overturn 50 years of precedent with this case, that all of our constitutional rights are on the line,” Warbelow said. “Lawmakers will be further emboldened to come after our progress. So, we must be vigilant in protecting our hard-won rights – we’re ready.”

Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), said the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade would have a “disastrous effect” on healthcare for women, especially women of color. He said the ruling could also lead to future rulings that adversely impact LGBTQ people and other minorities.

“We have no doubt that the conservative supermajority on the court will not stop with Roe,” Kawata said in a statement. “Justice Thomas’s chilling concurring opinion makes it very clear that the court could target other rights provided by the Court – marriage equality, contraception access, and LGBTQ+ intimacy in private to name a few,” he said.

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LGBTQ+ groups commemorate Juneteenth

Emancipation Proclamation reached Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865

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LGBTQ activists in New York commemorate Juneteenth. (Photo courtesy of Cathy Renna)

WASHINGTON — President Biden last year signed the “Juneteenth National Independence Day Act” into law, officially designating June 19 as a federal holiday. This legislation was passed after years of advocacy — spearheaded by 95-year-old Opal Lee — pushing for federal recognition of the day in 1865 when the news of the Emancipation Proclamation was delivered to Galveston, Texas, freeing the last remaining enslaved people. 

The Juneteenth holiday has been recognized in Texas since 1980, but it made its way to the federal level in 2021 in the wake of Black Lives Matter movement and a national reckoning over police violence, slavery’s legacy and the ongoing toll of racism. 

Although June was designated as LGBTQ+ Pride Month long after the events of Juneteenth in 1865, the two holidays are more than just coincidentally related. 

The Stonewall riots — which kickstarted the gay rights movement just over 100 years after Juneteenth — involved mainly Black and brown patrons of the Stonewall Inn. Drag performer and gay rights activist Stormé DeLarverie is even rumored to have thrown the first punch. In the days of protests that followed, queer Black women like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin Gracey became crucial leaders in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. 

To honor this intersectional history, LGBTQ+ around the country are observing the country’s newest federal holiday with a mix of festivity and on-the-ground activism.

In celebration of Juneteenth, New York City Pride kicked off the weekend with a brunch highlighting the stories and culinary expertise of six Black LGBTQ+ chefs. The event highlighted queer Black folks making waves in the business sector and is part of a larger slate of events being hosted as part of New York City Pride.

Cathy Renna, communications director for New York City Pride, said that the organization does its best work using an intersectional approach that lasts far beyond the month of June.

“We look at our work through the intersectional lens of, gender, sexual identity, gender identity, race, class, ability. All of those are things we take into account, and if you look at the work that we do you can see it — not just during the month of Pride,” Renna said. “Whether it’s looking at what could be potentially happening with the Roe v. Wade decision since the leaked draft came out a little over a month ago, we have been trying to help people in the community understand how this could be so impactful for trans and queer folks and for Black and brown communities. We did a joint partnership project with TransLash, which told the stories of Trans people of color whose lives were impacted because of either access or lack of access to reproductive healthcare. So, [intersectionality] is always a top priority.”

At the National Black Justice Coalition, intersectionality is also part of their DNA: The organization seeks to empower the Black LGBTQ+ community through “coalition building, federal policy change, research, and education.”

National Black Justice Coalition Deputy Executive Director Victoria Kirby York highlighted several ways that NBJC is commemorating Juneteenth with activism and grassroots organizing. 

“We’ve been celebrating Juneteenth through our policy agenda, which includes passing HR 40 or getting an executive order signed from President Biden to establish a commission on reparations. [On June 16] we joined other civil and human rights organizations to install flowers that look like the Pan-African flag right in front of the White House, to call on President Biden to sign an executive order that would help do this,” York said. “A commission on reparations would help to really detail the federal government’s roles and others’ roles in the institution of slavery and the many anti-Black policies that followed the emancipation of those who were enslaved.”

As Biden said in a statement marking the one-year anniversary of Juneteenth’s designation as a federal holiday, Juneteenth is as much a promise of continual improvement as it is a recognition of past emancipation.

In his statement, Biden wrote “it’s not enough to just commemorate Juneteenth. Emancipation marked the beginning, not the end, of America’s work to deliver on the promise of equality. To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we must not rest until we deliver the promise of America for all Americans.”

For York, one way that LGBTQ+ groups can help to deliver on this promise is by throwing their support behind the black community and returning the favor of intersectional allyship.

“There are organizations that are partnering with existing Juneteenth events, so instead of LGBTQ groups creating their own activities for Juneteenth, using it as an opportunity to support and send your members to existing Juneteenth events, some of which have been going on for decades,” York said. “There are still a number of Black community members who feel like our community as a whole was pushed to be supportive and to stand up for the LGBTQ community around marriage and a whole host of other things, and [the LGBTQ] community doesn’t always return the favor very well. So, in some ways the best thing to do is to show up — to show up at that community Juneteenth festival that is being held to mark the holiday.”

“Go ahead and show that we are visible at Juneteenth events in the same way that we want the black community to be welcomed at Pride events,” added York.

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AIDS/LifeCycle Cyclists concluding a 7-Day journey from SF to LA June 11

This year’s participants raised more than $17.8 million—the highest fundraising amount in the event’s history

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Photo courtesy of AIDS-LifeCycle

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood is a proud co-sponsor of AIDS/LifeCycle, an annual 7-day fundraising bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefitting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

This year’s participants, who departed from San Francisco on Sunday, raised more than $17.8 million—the highest fundraising amount in the event’s history—to support San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center. Participants are HIV-positive and HIV-negative, LGBTQ+ and allies, ages 18 to 81, and from nearly every state and 14 countries.

Saturday, June 11 on Day 7  Beginning in Ventura and ending at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, more than 2,400 AIDS/LifeCycle cyclists and 600 volunteer “roadies” will cross the finish line to culminate their 7-day, 545-mile journey.

6–8 a.m.                        Route opens at San Buenaventura State Beach
901 San Pedro St., Ventura

9:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.     Lunch Stop: Will Rogers State Beach
17000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu

11 a.m.–6 p.m.             Finish Line at Fairfax High School
7850 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

NOTE: Most cyclists will cross the finish line between 2–4 p.m.

Riders will enter the City of West Hollywood at N. Doheny Drive traveling eastbound on Santa Monica Boulevard in the number-two lane and parking lane until Ogden Drive. At Ogden Drive, riders will turn south and continue southbound to Melrose Avenue. The eastbound number-two lane of Santa Monica Boulevard is expected to be closed from 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, 2022.  Parking will also be restricted on both the eastbound side of Santa Monica Boulevard and the west side of Ogden Drive from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

While the AIDS/LifeCycle does not require any full street closures, it is anticipated there will be traffic impacts due to the reduction of one eastbound traffic lane on Santa Monica Boulevard. Cyclists are expected to adhere to all traffic laws as directed by California Vehicle Code. West Hollywood community members and visitors are encouraged to take part in a tradition of cheering on cyclists as they complete their final miles of this long-distance fundraiser.

On Saturday, June 11, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Santa Monica Boulevard, Eastbound Number-Two Lane will be Closed to Automobile Traffic to Accommodate Cyclists; and Ogden Drive Parking on West Side of Street will be Unavailable from Santa Monica Boulevard to Willoughby Avenue

HIV and AIDS have had a significant impact in West Hollywood. The disease’s elevated infection rate among gay men caused a devastatingly high number of deaths in the City. The City of West Hollywood was one of the first government entities to provide social services grants to local AIDS and HIV organizations.

The City of West Hollywood sponsored one of the first AIDS awareness campaigns in the country in October 1985 and the City’s response to the AIDS crisis has been recognized as a model for other cities, nationally and globally.

Support for AIDS/LifeCycle is consistent with the City’s core values and with ongoing City programs meant to commemorate the lives of those who were lost, such as World AIDS Day, the AIDS Memorial Walk, and the AIDS Monument which is currently in development.

The City actively participates supporting education and advocacy in the development of programs that can bring awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

The City is currently implementing its HIV Zero Initiative Strategic Plan with vision to become an ‘HIV Zero’ city. A culminating goal of the HIV Zero plan is to build an inclusive community that supports underserved groups and honors the contributions made by people living with HIV.

For more information about the AIDS/LifeCycle event, please visit www.aidslifecycle.org.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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