The Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the Equality Federation, released its fifth annual Municipal Equality Index last Monday. The index aims to score cities based on LGBTQ-inclusive legislation.
Based on size and census data, the Human Rights Campaign selected 506 cities across the country for rating. This year, a record 60 cities nationwide, none of which were in North Carolina, scored a full 100 points and 86 cities offered their city employees at least one transgender-inclusive health care plan.
None of the 10 North Carolina cities that were scored, including Chapel Hill, received any of the 30 potential points for nondiscrimination laws.
Xavier Persad, legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said these scores don’t comment on individual experience or quality of life, but aim to focus on existing laws and policy.
“It’s about creating a road map for equality for our cities and advocates on the ground to be able to see exactly what can be done to further equal rights in their communities," Persad said. "It’s also to make folks aware of what protections exist and what’s left to be done.”
The scores indicated in the reports are created by adding each city's totals for five categories: non-discrimination laws, the municipality’s benefits and protections as an employer, municipal services and programs, fair law enforcement and relationship with the LGBTQ community.
“What we’re looking for here, for the Municipal Equality Index, are explicit protections around gender identity and sexual orientation,” said Persad. "We’re looking at employment protections that apply city-wide, housing and public accommodations."
Chapel Hill received full potential points for its relationship with the LGBTQ community, with bonus points given for LGBTQ-elected municipal leadership. The city received a total score of 68 out of 100.
"We're looking at local level policies and laws for the most part, but because HB2 took away Charlotte's LGBTQ-inclusive ordinance and public accommodations, they were not able to obtain those points," Persad said.
Charlotte received full points for fair law enforcement and relationships with the LGBTQ community as well as some bonus points for a total score of 73.
Andy Garcia, program manager at the Equality Federation, said while House Bill 2 is thought of as a bathroom law, it actually strips municipalities, like Charlotte, of their ability to pass nondiscrimination ordinances.
"Charlotte’s score was obviously impacted by the fact that their ordinance, which they passed, is now preempted by state law,” he said.
Garcia said the Human Rights Campaign noticed numerous attempts by states to remove or override citywide protections on LGBTQ individuals.
“We’ve seen over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills this past year alone," he said. "But, the municipal work really doesn’t reflect that kind of animosity toward the LGBTQ community — it tells a different story.”
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