US: Record number of cities advance LGBT rights in 2017, despite federal, state actions

While a barrage of anti-LGBT bills in state legislatures made headlines in 2017, U.S. cities were quietly notching victories in the battle for equal rights.

A record 68 cities earned perfect scores for advancing LGBT inclusive policies and practices this year, according to a report released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute, two LGBT advocacy groups.

The report, which ranks advances at the city level, “demonstrates an encouraging steady trend toward full municipal LGBTQ equality,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for HRC.  

Progress on transgender equality was singled out as significant by the groups, which have been tracking equal rights with a Municipal Equality Index scorecard for six years 

Twenty-five cities revised city employee health care plans in 2017 to cover transgender related health services, such as hormone replacement therapy or gender confirmation surgery. Now, 111 cities nationwide offer such health services, up from 86 in 2016 and just five in 2012.

The report lands in a year that saw activists fending off legislation in statehouses as more than 100 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in 29 states. The transgender community was targeted with about 39 of those bills: from banning transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity to preventing them from obtaining accurate documents like driver’s licenses.

“Municipalities from every corner of the country — no matter their size or political leaning — continue to strive to realize the fundamental American value that no one should live with the fear of being fired, evicted or excluded from public places simply because of who they are or who they love,” Warbelow said. 

Also striking, the report says: In addition to legislative changes, more cities modified administrative policies to stamp out discrimination. Eighteen cities updated their equal employment opportunity policies to include sexual orientation and gender identity; 13 extended the same employment non-bias requirements to businesses they contract with. 

The index rated cities of varying sizes drawn from every state in the nation. Alabama’s city averages increased the most this year, followed by cities in Iowa, New Jersey and West Virginia. 

Of the 68 cities that earned perfect scores: 67 reported hate crime statistics to the FBI, 59 had contractor non-discrimination policies that included gender identity, 49 had an openly elected or appointed LGBT official in senior leadership.

The report acknowledges that some jurisdictions are limited in their ability to pass protections because of state law, while others are in states that already have enacted inclusive policies.  Read more via USA Today