At a time when many states have failed to extend LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies, Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Ferndale are stepping up to ensure that all citizens are treated equally, according to a report issued today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization.
HRC’s 2016 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that around the country cities are fueling momentum for LGBTQ equality -- and often are doing so in states that still don’t have LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws at the state level.
In Michigan, Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Ferndale earned over 85 points on the 2016 MEI despite hailing from a state without LGBTQ-inclusive statewide non-discrimination laws. Across the country, 37 cities like these set a standard of LGBTQ inclusiveness with exemplary, best-practice policies such as local non-discrimination laws, providing transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees, and offering LGBTQ-inclusive city services.
Shining like beacons of hope, Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Ferndale earned one of HRC’s 37 MEI “All Star” designations. MEI All Stars are cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ equality without relying on state law. This year, Ann Arbor earned 100 points, Detroit earned 100 points, East Lansing earned 100 points and Ferndale earned 94 points. Last year, Ann Arbor earned 77 points, Detroit earned 100 points, East Lansing earned 100 points and Ferndale earned 97 points.
The average score for cities in Michigan is 69 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 55.
The cities researched for the MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the five largest cities in every state, the cities home to each 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.
“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This builds on a trend we have long observed: that local governments are at the forefront of our fight for equality. Unfortunately, our opponents have witnessed this progress too, and in recent years, anti-LGBTQ lawmakers have pushed spiteful legislation aimed at pre-empting local protections. That’s why it’s so important that we continue to not only fight for equality at the state and local levels, but to enact comprehensive federal protections for LGBTQ people under the Equality Act.”
"Despite another year of legislative attacks on LGBTQ equality, we are not merely holding our ground; we also continue to make significant gains across the country,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of the Equality Federation Institute. “The opportunity for further progress is huge, and we are proud to partner with HRC on the Municipal Equality Index, a powerful roadmap for elected officials and community advocates who want to continue down the path to full equality.”
Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has more than quintupled, and today at least 24 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state or the federal government. And cities that have been rated all five years of the MEI have improved their scores by about 20 points over that time.
Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across America this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked -- and encouraged -- since 2012. Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 86 municipalities this year -- up from 66 in 2015 and 5 in 2012 -- and the growth of cities offering those benefits to their employees outpaces the growth in the number of cities rated. The MEI’s Issue Brief on Transgender-Inclusive Health Benefits is available here.
For the first time this year, the MEI deducted points from the scores of cities that have non-discrimination protections containing carve-outs prohibiting individuals from using public facilities consistent with their gender identity. It also created a new category of points to recognize cities that are offering transgender-specific city services.
Two special reports are also included in the 2016 MEI: Power Struggles and Preemption details efforts by anti-equality officials at the state level to pass discriminatory legislation like North Carolina’s HB2 law that strip municipalities of their ability to protect their residents and workers with non-discrimination measures. Inclusive and Innovative Approaches to Citywide Bullying Prevention lays out the serious public health issue of bullying, how it disproportionately affects LGBTQ youth, and innovative ways municipalities can protect its young people from bullying. The 2018 MEI will change the way it assesses anti-bullying issues, as described in this brief.
Other key findings from the 2016 Municipal Equality Index include:
87 cities from states without nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide mean of 55 points. These cities averaged 80-point scores; 22 scored a perfect 100.
Cities continue to excel even in the absence of state laws: 37 “All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 31 last year, 15 in 2014, eight in 2013, and just two in 2012.
The average city score was 55 points. 60 cities, or 12 percent of those rated, scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 75 points; 25 percent scored under 33 points; and 8 cities scored zero points.
Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples, as tabulated by a UCLA Williams Institute analysis of the 2010 U.S. Census, tended to score better. The presence of openly-LGBTQ city officials was also correlated with higher scores.
The MEI rated 506 cities: the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities (including undergraduate and graduate enrollment), 75 cities and municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples, and 98 cities selected by members and supporters of HRC and Equality Federation state organizations.
The MEI rates cities based on 44 criteria that fall into five broad categories:
Municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors
Inclusiveness of city services
Law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting
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