Both St. Petersburg and Tampa scored 100 percent on the newly released Municipal Equality Index, a measure of the protections LGBTQ people have in the communities they call home.
Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.
The 2019 Municipal Equality Index, compiled by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, rates a total of 506 cities on 49 criteria. Eighty-eight cities scored 100 percent. That’s the largest number of perfect-scoring cities in the eight years the index has been compiled. Last year, 78 cities had a perfect score. In the first year of the initiative, 2012, just 11 cities had a perfect score.
“This work is not going unnoticed by our country’s leading businesses,” wrote Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. “Both companies and municipalities understand that embracing equality is not only the right thing to do — it also helps businesses and economies thrive.”
Businesses actively take into account local laws and policies when making decisions about cities in which to headquarter, relocate or expand, the report said.
St. Petersburg got the most points possible in several categories:
• Municipality as employer, including criteria such as non-discrimination in city employment and transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits
• Municipal services, where the city got several bonus points for its youth bullying prevention policy and services to LGBTQ youth, homeless and the elderly
• Law enforcement, including having an LGBTQ police liaison and reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI
• Leadership on LGBTQ equality, with bonus points for openly LGBTQ elected or appointed municipal leaders
See the full rankings for St. Petersburg here.
We did it again! Thanks, Jim. Thanks to @HRC for this program and accountability, to my city team, and to our residents for making sure the sun shines on everyone in St. Pete, regardless or who you love. https://t.co/GmSj7TShOg
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) November 19, 2019
Tampa scored perfectly in the non-discrimination laws category, which evaluates whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by the city, county, or state in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. Tampa got bonus points for its ordinance to protect youth from conversion therapy. That ordinance was overturned by federal judge in October, Newsweek reported. The city recently said it would appeal the ruling.
Tampa also got the most points possible in the categories of municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, elected earlier this year, is the first openly gay mayor in the city.
See the full rankings for Tampa here.
The 2019 Municipal Equality Index also highlights the work of Equality Florida, a St. Petersburg-based advocacy group.
“Florida is leading the way in the passage of local LGBTQ protections in the South,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “In communities large and small, across the political and geographic spectrum, local sexual orientation and gender identity protections cover 60 percent of the population.”
A key part of the statewide strategy has been addressing conversion therapy.
“To date, 21 municipalities have enacted protections against the harmful practice of conversion therapy, creating important upward pressure for statewide change,” said Joseph Saunders, Equality Florida senior political director.
The average overall score for cities in Florida is 76 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 60, according to the index.
The Municipal Equality Index is published annually by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute.