The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute, released its sixth annual Municipal Equality Index.
The MEI assesses LGBTQ equality in 506 cities across the nation, including Chapel Hill, Carrboro and eight other North Carolina cities.
Chapel Hill scored a 66 out of 100 while Carrboro scored a 71, both above the national average of 57.
Carrboro’s score has improved 25 percent since last year while Chapel Hill’s score decreased by two points.
The average score for cities in North Carolina is 53 out of 100.
Author of the report and Legislative Council for the Human Rights Campaign, Xavier Persad, says the cities are rated on 44 different criteria.
“Those 44 criteria fall under five broad categories, those being city-wide non discrimination laws, the city’s policies towards city employees, city services, law enforcement and the city’s leadership on LGBTQ equality,” said Persad.
WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Xavier Persad.
The points are distributed differently according to each criterion, with an opportunity for cities to score 20 extra bonus points, though 100 is the highest score a city can get.
“Our scoring system is set up so that cities large and small of varying resources have the ability to score well by demonstrating efforts to be inclusive through law and policy,” said Persad.
Greensboro scored the highest of all North Carolina cities with an 82, and Persad says the city has policies that other cities do not.
“Like trans-inclusive healthcare benefits for city employees, LGBTQ liaison in the police department and administrative policy that requires city contractors not to discriminate in employment on the expressed basis of sexual orientation,” said Persad.
Persad says Chapel Hill and Carrboro have improved their scores by appointing LGBTQ liaisons in the mayor’s office and police department, actively reporting hate crimes to the FBI, displaying public support of pro-LGBTQ equality statements by city leaders, making sure to use city resources to make services accessible and tailoring to the needs of vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.
To improve Chapel Hill and Carrboro scores, Persad suggested including adding transgender inclusive healthcare benefits coverage as an option on one of their plans for city employees, something that Carrboro already does but was unable to include in this year’s report.
Though cities still have room to improve, since the annual MEI began in 2012, the number of cities around America earning perfect scores has increased by more than six fold, and today at least 24 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.
“We’ve had a record number of 100 point cities this year and a lot of other record milestones this year,” said Persad. “I will say that in a difficult climate, you know, we may be disheartened by what’s happening on the federal level and in some states on the state level, but we are heartened by what city leaders are doing, they are boldly standing up for equality and they are not waiting for higher levels of government to protect their residents.”
The full report is available here.