“Colorado overall scored 64 points on average, which is better than the national average and Denver was the highest of that group with 82 points.” -Cathryn Oakley, Human Rights Campaign.
The 2016 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country continue to take the lead in supporting LGBTQ people. This index looks at the efforts of cities and municipalities because they often have more inclusive laws than even the states where they are located. Some cities have passed anti-discrimination laws for LGBTQ people even when their state will not.
Maeve Conran talks with the Senior Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, Cathryn Oakley about Colorado and how the cities were scored on the equality index.
The MEI rated 506 cities across the U.S. and the average score was 55 points. In Colorado, the index looked at eight cities, mainly in the I-25 corridor. The cities are given scores based on 44 criteria in five categories: Non-Discrimination Laws, Municipal Employment Policies, City Services, Law Enforcement, and City Leadership on LGBTQ Issues.
- Denver-82 pts.
- Fort Collins-74 pts.
- Boulder-74 pts.
- Aspen-62 pts.
- Lakewood-60 pts.
- Aurora-59 pts.
- Colorado Springs-53 pts.
- Littleton-48 pts.
“Denver has done a lot of things I think that are important when it comes to LGBT equality.”
Denver has a human rights commision, law enforcement reports hate crimes to the FBI, and they offer transgender health care to their city employees. Oakley says the Human Rights Commission is really focusing on this expanded inclusiveness in health care.
“[Denver] also offers transgender inclusive health benefits to city employees…that’s one of the things Denver did that did set it apart.”
One of the big differences between Denver and Boulder, according to Oakley, was the inclusion of transgender inclusive health benefits. Including transgender health benefits is one area where the Human Rights Campaign sees that many cities can improve their scores on the Municipality Equality Index.
“Having good state laws actually provide a floor for cities on the MEI…so they can’t do worse than a certain point. Unfortunately, Aurora’s kind of bouncing around down not too far from the floor.”
Oakley discusses the differences that can be found in the same general metro area. Although Aurora and Littleton are very close to Denver geographically, the LGBTQ community can find themselves in a better or worse situation based on a few miles.
“Each of these cities, they’re acting in a way that reflects the values of their community. Many of the cities that we look at on this index talk a lot about how important it is that the world see that particular city that is inclusive and welcoming.”
By looking at the index, cities can find places where they can improve their MEI scores to become more inclusive. Individuals can look at the index as well and it may make a difference in where they might want to live.
Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has more than quintupled, and today at least 24 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive non-discrimination laws than their state. Cities that have been rated all five years of the MEI have improved their scores by about 20 points over that time.