Lexington earns top score, two others get high marks from civil rights group

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Lexington has received an all-time high score of 95 out of 100 from the Human Rights Campaign, a national civil rights organization focused on protecting and supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.

Louisville and Covington also received high marks.

“We have purposefully worked to increase our Human Rights Campaign equality score,” Mayor Linda Gorton said. “Since January 2019, we’ve raised our score a total of six points. I am very proud of this movement forward in doing what’s right for our LGBTQ community.”

Each year the organization scores cities based on how inclusive their laws, policies, services, and programs are of their LGBTQ citizens.

In 2020, the organization evaluated 506 cities across the country. The national organization listed Lexington as a Municipal Equality Index All-Star because it received a high score in a state without LGBTQ non-discrimination laws.

In 2019, Gorton created a workgroup to review the Human Rights Campaign score, and provide recommendations on how Lexington can improve future scores, with a goal of receiving a perfect 100.

“Although COVID-19 slowed down the diligent work of the Mayor’s Municipal Equality Index Workgroup, we will continue to push forward with positive actions,” said Craig Cammack, the Mayor’s LGBTQ Liaison. “The importance of the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index Score can’t be overstated. It is used by businesses, travelers, and others to determine if they should visit or relocate to Lexington. By having a higher score, we can show our commitment to fairness and attract new businesses and visitors.”

In addition to Cammack, members of the workgroup include:

  • Councilmember Susan Lamb, Fourth District
  • Councilmember-Elect Liz Sheehan, Fifth District
  • Lt. Matthew Brotherton, LGBTQ Community Liaison, Lexington Division of Police
  • Tim Burcham, President, Burcham Solutions Group
  • Arthur Lucas, Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Office of the CAO
  • Wanda McCants, Bluegrass Black Pride and Board Member, Pride Community Services Organization
  • Tuesday Meadows, Former Chair, Lexington Fairness
  • Sherita Miller, Minority Business Liaison, Lexington Department of Finance
  • Dr. Lance Poston, Executive Director, University of Kentucky Inclusive Health and Campus Partnerships
  • Brandl Skirvin, President, JustFund Kentucky
  • Carmen Wampler-Collins, Executive Director, Pride Community Services Organization

Lexington has been rated by the Human Rights Campaign since 2013. The city has consistently increased its score, moving up from 53 to 95.

Lexington was the first in the state to pass a countywide inclusive fairness ordinance protecting LGBTQ citizens. The state now has  20 cities with fairness ordinances.

Lexington has improved its score by providing benefits to domestic partners, establishing LGBTQ Liaisons in the Mayor’s Office and Division of Police, focusing on increased diversity, and working with local organizations committed to serving the LGBTQ community.

The full Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index score can be found at www.hrc.org/mei.

In Kentucky, Covington and Louisville also earned over 85 points on the 2020 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) despite hailing from a state without statewide non-discrimination statutes that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity.

This year, Covington earned a 93, Lexington and Louisville both earned a 95.

The average score for cities in Kentucky is 61 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 64.

“These All-Star cities are blazing the path forward for equality and fighting back against extreme unrelenting attacks on the LGBTQ community. These cities are sending a strong message that our lives, our families and our community are valuable and valued,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “This year’s Municipal Equality Index underscores the importance that mayors and local officials play in creating safe and inclusive communities – even if there has been a lack of leadership at the federal level. As we look toward advancing equality during the Biden-Harris Administration, it is critical that we continue to strengthen LGBTQ protections at the local level. Local leaders, coast to coast, continue to show that they are willing to advance LGBTQ equality for their constituents, and we are thrilled to continue building inclusive communities across the country.”

This year, 179 cities have transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for municipal employees—up from 164 in 2019 and only five since the start of the MEI. Furthermore, 429 cities have equal employment opportunity policies that expressly include sexual orientation and/or gender identity, up by 21 since 2019. Moreover, 188 municipalities require their contractors to have employment non-discrimination policies that cover sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Other significant findings from the 2020 MEI include:

  • The national city score average jumped to an all-time high of 64 points, up from 60 last year, marking both the fourth consecutive year of national average increases as well as the highest year-over-year national average growth ever.
  • 35 municipalities have anti-conversion therapy ordinances in states with no state-level protections, up from 28 last year.
  • Every region of the country saw a mean city score increase this year, with the exception of the New England region which maintained its 2019 average.

The MEI rated 506 cities including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the U.S., the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, 75 municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 49 criteria covering citywide non-discrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement and the city’s leadership on LGBTQ equality.

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

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