WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a time when many states continue to drag their feet on fully-inclusive LGBT laws and policies, the nation’s cities are stepping up in record numbers to ensure that all people are treated equally, according to a report issued Nov. 12 by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization.

The HRC Foundation’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that in every state in the nation cities like Cincinnati, Atlanta, Saint Louis, Missoula, Orlando and Dallas are fueling momentum for LGBT equality — and often in states that still don’t have fully inclusive non-discrimination laws or marriage equality.

Carolina cities ranked

The Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index ranked several cities in the Carolinas. The highest score in the region went to Charleston with 74 points. Charlotte followed with 63. Most of the increases in the two states are due to the extension of marriage to same-gender couples, which included a maximum addition of 12 points to the scoring.

North Carolina
Cary, 36
Charlotte, 63
Durham, 59
Fayetteville, 41
Greensboro, 50
Raleigh, 51
Winston-Salem, 51

South Carolina
Charleston, 60
Columbia, 74
Mount Pleasant, 36
North Charleston, 44

Progress this year, as documented by the third annual MEI, has been particularly noteworthy on transgender equality. Thirty-two million Americans now live in cities and towns that have taken bold action to embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws that go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government.

The MEI’s standard criteria for earning points this year, for the first time, included whether a city offers transgender-inclusive health care benefits.

“From Mississippi to Montana, mid-size cities and small towns have become the single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality —changing countless lives for the better,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks from the MEI for their treatment of LGBT people has more than tripled.”

“Simply put,” Griffin said, “in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law. It’s time our state and federal laws caught up.”

Cities like Salt Lake City and East Lansing, Columbus and Rochester, Tampa and Tucson, St. Petersburg, Tempe and Dayton, are doing better by their LGBT residents and workers than their state legislatures, or Congress.

Other key findings contained in the MEI, issued in partnership with the Equality Federation, provide a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality in 353 municipalities of varying sizes, and from every state in the nation.

The cities researched for the 2014 MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the four largest cities in every state, the city home to each state’s largest public university, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.

Thirty-eight cities earned perfect 100-point scores, even with this year’s more demanding criteria that includes transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. That’s up from 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. Perfect scores are earned by cities with exemplary LGBT policies, ranging from non-discrimination laws and equal employee benefits, to cutting edge city services and strong relationships with the LGBT community.

The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at hhrc.org/mei. : :

LGBTQ Nation (lgbtqnation.com), a qnotes news partner

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