The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, has released its fourth annual report assessing LGBT equality in 408 cities across the nation, including seven in Connecticut. The average score for cities in Connecticut is 74 out of 100 points, above the national average of 56. The 2015 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country, including in Connecticut, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.
Connecticut’s municipal scores are: New Haven: 99, Stamford: 91, Hartford: 91, Waterbury: 70, New Britain: 63, Storrs (Mansfield): 54, and Bridgeport: 51. Across the country, 47 cities earned perfect 100-point scores, up from 38 in 2014, 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI. This year’s MEI marks the largest number of 100-point scores in its history. Stamford scored the biggest jump in Connecticut from last year's analysis, advancing nearly 30 points while four other Connecticut cities also included last year earned similar scores in 2015.
For LGBT Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely from state to state, and city to city. The MEI rates cities based on 41 criteria falling under five broad categories:
- Non-discrimination laws
- Municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees
- Inclusiveness of city services
- Law enforcement
- Municipal leadership on matters of equality
The review indicates that in 31 states, LGBT people are still at risk of being fired, denied housing or refused service because of who they are, and who they love. The lack of legal protection in many states is driving the HRC effort to pass the Equality Act, which would extend nationwide non-discrimination protections to LGBT Americans. Officials say that the MEI is a crucial tool in evaluating the patchwork of LGBT policies and practices in cities and towns across the nation.
New Haven received an initial score of 94, before receiving 5 bonus points for municipal services and being a “welcoming place to work.” The Elm City earned perfect scores in 4 of the 5 categories - for non-discrimination laws, municipal services, law enforcement and the relationship with the LGBT community. Hartford earned a perfect score in three categories, but fell short in “law enforcement” and “municipality as an employer”. The city has an initial score of 84, before receiving 7 bonus points, for providing services to LGBT elderly, youth, homeless, and people living with HIV/AIDS.
Bridgeport earned a perfect score in one category, non-discrimination laws, but a 0 in the “municipality as employer” category. The city did, however, receive 2 bonus points for being a “welcoming place to work.”
In 2014, the MEI included only five cities in Connecticut – Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Storrs (Mansfield). Stamford jumped 29 points in a year, while New Haven and Hartford each lost a point between last year and this year’s survey. Bridgeport and Storrs also dropped slightly in the new ratings. The scores last year: New Haven: 100, Hartford: 92, Stamford: 62, Storrs 59, Bridgeport: 57. Stamford’s much higher rating was driven by three categories: non-discrimination laws, where the score moved from 18 to 30, relationship with the LGBT community, which increased from 2 to 8 and also picked up 7 bonus points, and municipal services, which increased from 10 to 16.
“Across our country, cities and towns both big and small aren’t waiting for state or national leaders to move LGBT equality forward,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Instead, these municipalities are taking action now to improve the lives of countless LGBT Americans. In what has been an historic year for equality, a record-breaking number of municipalities this year have earned top scores in our Municipal Equality Index for their inclusive treatment of their LGBT citizens and workers. They are making a powerful statement that no one should have to wait for full equality - the time is now.”
Key findings contained in the MEI, issued in partnership with the Equality Federation, provide a revealing snapshot of LGBT equality in 408 municipalities of varying sizes, and from every state in the nation. The cities researched for the 2015 MEI include the 50 state capitals, the 200 most populous cities in the country, the five largest cities in every state, the city home to the state’s two largest public universities, and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
"This year, an unprecedented wave of discriminatory legislation attempted to roll-back our efforts for LGBT equality,” said Rebecca Isaacs of the Equality Federation. “Despite that challenge, over 20 towns and municipalities passed non-discrimination ordinances, some in the most unexpected places. These wins, along with historic LGBT visibility, speak to the tenacity of our advocates all across the country, many of whom donate their time to achieve fairness and equality. The MEI is an important tool for our movement that illustrates our successes and the work ahead of us. We will not stop until all Americans have a fair opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, free from the scourge of discrimination."
The 2015 MEI revealed that 32 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state or the federal government. Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples tended to score better, officials said, and the presence of openly-LGBT city officials and LGBT police liaisons also were correlated with higher scores. The average city score was 56 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 77 points; 25 percent scored under 31 points; and five percent scored fewer than 10 points.
At the state level, earlier this year, the Connecticut legislature approved a new law ensuring that transgender people can change their birth certificates to reflect their correct name and gender without unnecessarily expensive and invasive obstacles. The new law simplifies the process by empowering transgender people to change their birth certificate by providing a statement of appropriate treatment by a healthcare provider. It took effect on October 1. Similar laws have been approved in Hawaii, California, Iowa, New York and Vermont.
The full Human Rights Campaign report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.