Cities are taking charge across the U.S. to ensure that LGBTQ protections are in place for residents, according to a report released Thursday from the Human Rights Campaign.
The organization’s Municipal Equality Index, which reviewed legislation in more than 500 cities and municipalities representing 94 million people in its ninth iteration, found that cities have only improved on serving LGBTQ people despite rollbacks and challenges at the federal and state level.
"In many instances, local nondiscrimination laws are the only layers of protection that LGBTQ people have," HRC president Alphonso David told USA TODAY. "Because local officials are often the first and only line of protection against harmful prejudice and discrimination, it's imperative that they fight to ensure inclusivity and equity for the most vulnerable, especially those who have multiple marginalized identities."
By the Human Rights Campaign’s metrics, 94 of the cities surveyed achieved a perfect score, six more than last year and a significant improvement from 11 only eight years ago when the equality index first launched.
These cities have achieved high marks by establishing policies that HRC finds are crucial for LGBTQ people’s welfare: For instance, nearly all of these cities reported LGBTQ hate crime statistics to the FBI, and about two-thirds provide direct services to LGBTQ young people and people with HIV or AIDS.
Among other benchmarks for cities: extensive nondiscrimination laws, better transgender-inclusive health care for city and municipal employees, and more LGBTQ officials elected to office at the municipal level.
It’s not just cities in states that have historically been friendly to LGBTQ people, either: 61 cities achieved high marks for ensuring the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people despite being in states that do not offer base equality protections.