Report: Municipalities advance LGBT equality ahead of states, federal government

The state of LGBT equality in cities across the nation, including five Hawaii cities, is detailed in HRC’s 2014 Municipal Equality Index.

News Report
Will Caron

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, released its third annual report assessing LGBT equality across the nation. The report includes data from 353 cities across the nation, including five in Hawaii. (The report treats East Honolulu, Manoa, Honolulu and Pearl City—all within the city and county of Honolulu—as different cities for the purposes of data collection.)

The data was used to create the 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a system measuring LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy. The 2014 report shows that, while there is still much progress to be made, cities across the country are making strides in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not.

“In just three years, the number of municipalities earning top marks for their treatment of LGBT citizens has more than tripled,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Simply put, in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law, and it’s time our state and federal laws caught up.”

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.

East Honolulu, Manoa, Honolulu and Pearl City all scored 56 out of 100, falling just below the national average score of 59. However Hilo scored 63, bringing the average score for Hawaii cities to 57.

“From Mississippi to Idaho, mid-size cities and small towns have become the single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality,” said Griffin.

“In many municipalities, local leaders are taking important steps to provide LGBT people with the protections and security not available at the state or federal level. And because of this leadership, many cities and counties are emerging as welcoming communities where LGBT people are treated with the dignity and respect they’ve always deserved,” said Rebecca Issacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation. “Municipal victories are fueling the movement for equality in states across this nation.”

Other findings contained in the 2014 MEI:

Cities in all regions of the country earned excellent scores, demonstrating that commitment to LGBT equality is not confined to parts of the country many people assume are most LGBT friendly;

Thirty-eight cities received perfect scores, even with this year’s more demanding criteria; that’s up from 11 in 2012, and 25 in 2013;

Cities continue to excel even without depending on state law: of cities that scored a perfect 100, 15 are in states that don’t have comprehensive relationship recognition or a statewide non-discrimination law; that’s up from eight cities last year, and just two in 2012;

Thirty-two million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than either their state or the federal government;

The average city score was 59 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 80 points; 25 percent scored under 44 points; and four percent scored fewer than 10 points;

Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples tended, not surprisingly, to score better, and the presence of openly-LGBT city officials and LGBT police liaisons also correlated with higher scores.

The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:

-Non-discrimination laws
-Relationship recognition
-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 full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at