Persad said he was surprised by the initiative that cities took this year amid political unrest.
“In a year marked by a wave of anti-LGBTQ state bills and an unprecedented rollback of hard-won federal LGBTQ protections, the MEI reveals that city leaders are boldly standing up for equality," Persad said. "In nearly every regard, the 2017 MEI represents an improvement over previous years."
Carrboro mayor Lydia Lavelle said she is both pleased and unsurprised that Chapel Hill and Carrboro are above the national average.
“We were the first in the state to offer domestic partner benefits before marriage equality was realized," she said. "We were the first in the state to have a domestic partner registry, so that was a way that same-sex couples could evidence their commitment to each other, again before marriage equality. Our town was also the first in North Carolina to have a gay mayor, Mike Nelson, and the first lesbian mayor, that’s me."
Carrboro's local government has been active in creating an accepting environment for the LGBTQ+ community. The town has had a nondiscrimination policy in place for many years, and makes conscious decisions to not award grant money to nonprofits unless they can prove their bylaws have a nondiscrimination clause, Lavelle said.
Chapel Hill town council member Jessica Anderson said Chapel Hill has worked hard to achieve the score it did but that there is still much more to be done.
“We’ve pushed back against a lot of regressive policies like HB2, and we’ve made sure that our town ordinances are as LGBTQ friendly as they can be in terms of contractors that we work with and how we treat our employees,” Anderson said.
It makes sense that Chapel Hill and Carrboro would have a higher ranking, considering that college towns were prioritized in the study, Anderson said.
“With some exceptions, I think college towns across the nation tend to be more open," Anderson said. "The university community pushes the town to be a place that welcomes people from all over."
Lavelle said Carrboro's commitment to LGBTQ+ policy shows in this study.
"Over the years, we’ve shown very unanimous support by way of resolution of policy for our LGBT community, and we’ve established a reputation as such in our state,” she said.