Leading by example

In the absence of national leadership on LGBTQ equality, cities and even towns are stepping up to pass ordinances protecting basic rights for citizens.

The Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Municipal Equality Index came out this week and provides data showing that elected officials in the country’s major cities are driving the movement of inclusion for LGBTQ people.

The HRC looks at 49 different criteria, including municipal laws, policies and services and the positions of local leaders toward equality, among other metrics. Relevant legislation protects LGBTQ people from conversion therapy, bullying, harassment and discrimination in housing, employment and healthcare.

One major takeaway from the report is that cities and towns can provide inclusive legislation even without statewide protection laws. Pennsylvania is one such example. Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Allentown (home of the influential Bradbury-Sullivan Community Center) all scored 100 and State College came in with 98 points.

Equality-friendly political leaders are also the result of the hard, long work of persistent activism in the community. In the city of Woodbury, N.J., the Woodbury Community Pride organization set an ambitious goal: to be the most LGBTQ-friendly town in South Jersey. This year, the MEI gave Woodbury a score of 100. Besides Woodbury, only Jersey City and Hoboken earned perfect scores in the state.

In reacting to the MEI score, Woodbury Mayor Jessica Floyd pointed out that inclusion for all is good for business. “We are making Woodbury more tolerant and receptive to social concerns of its residents, employees and businesses.”

And that is the bigger point of inclusion: Everyone wins.