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  WINDY CITY TIMES

HRC unveils municipal equality report
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times
2012-12-05

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Chicago ranked highly in the new Human Rights Campaign (HRC) LGBT equality report, released Nov. 27.

The 2012 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), as it is called, rated 137 U.S. cities on a scale of 0-100, using categories such as "non-discrimination laws" or "relationship recognition." Bonus points were awarded for city-specific initiatives.

"Our nation is on an irreversible path forward in LGBT equality, and local and state-level advocacy ensures our voices are heard in public squares across the country," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release. "This index gives advocates and municipal lawmakers a potent tool to improve the lives of LGBT people."

Eleven cities—including Seattle, San Francisco, Boston and St. Louis—earned perfect scores of 100 points.

Chicago was not far behind with a 95. The city garnered points for its approach to law enforcement and hate crimes, municipal services and programs, and state-issued civil unions.

Chicago earned only 16 of 26 possible points regarding its LGBT employment policies. However, openly gay leadership and trans-friendly initiatives delivered a boost in bonus points.

The MEI report was issued in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute. Of the 137 cities profiled, 50 were state capitals, 50 were America's most populous cities, and 75 (25 large, 25 mid-size, 25 small) boasted the highest proportion of same-sex couples, according to a William Institute analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data.

A quarter of the cities surveyed earned more than 80 points, while nearly half obtained 60s or higher.

"Advances at the local level are often unheralded, but they are critical to building the momentum we need for statewide and federal victories," said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation Institute. "[This report] is a powerful tool to help push local governments to do better."

Springfield (the only Illinois city besides Chicago to be rated) earned a 70. Statewide non-discrimination and civil-union laws enhanced the score, but the municipality scored just 7 of 26 possible points for its treatment of LGBT employees. Failing categories included "domestic partner health benefits" and "equivalent family leave."

Additionally, Springfield lost points for not providing a mayoral LGBT liaison or office of LGBT affairs.

Chicago, on the other hand, earned a perfect score in the same category—a designation some have found questionable since Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently dismantled the Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and dismissed the LGBT liaison to the city.

Nationally, about a third of the surveyed cities scored between 40 and 60. Eight cities—including Pleasant Ridge, Mich., and Jackson, Miss.—saw scores lower than 10. Additionally, Montgomery, Ala.; Frankfort, Ky.; and Jefferson City, Mo., scored zeros.

To see the full report, including scorecards and a searchable database, visit www.hrc.org/mei.


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