The City of Atlanta continues to be an overachiever when it comes to LGBT equality, again notching a perfect score – actually 104 — on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. Eight other Georgia cities flopped in dramatic fashion.
The annual ranking was released Thursday, scoring hundreds of cities across the country in five key areas – non-discrimination laws, how the city treats its LGBT employees, municipal services, law enforcement and relationship with the LGBT community.
It’s the fourth consecutive year that Atlanta received a perfect – or better than perfect – score in HRC’s report. See for yourself: 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013. In 2012, the first year of the report, Atlanta received an 82.
The report graded 10 cities and geographic areas in Georgia. Atlanta was the only one that didn’t fail. Their 2017 scores (2016, 2015 and 2014) and links to their reports:
- Athens-Clarke 33 (21, 19, 46)
- Atlanta 104 (104, 100, 100)
- Augusta-Richmond 14 (12, 12, 10)
- Avondale Estates 24 (41, 41, 48)
- Columbus 34 (38, 40, 21)
- Decatur 51 (21, 28, 46)
- North Druid Hills 6 (12, 12, 11)
- Roswell 11 (11)
- Sandy Springs 22 (22)
- Savannah 44 (44, 19, 18)
Atlanta was among 68 cities across the U.S. that earned perfect scores on the index, up from 60 a year ago, according to the Human Rights Campaign. HRC President Chad Griffin said that shows LGBT equality efforts are continuing to grow.
“This year’s MEI paints a vivid picture: cities big and small, in red and blue states alike, are continuing our progress toward full equality, regardless of the political drama unfolding in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the country,” Griffin said in a prepared statement. “Today, the MEI serves as a vital tool for business leaders and municipal officials alike when it comes to economic development. CEOs know that in order to attract and retain the best employees, they must grow their companies in places that protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination and actively open their doors to all communities.”
The report showed that cities are making progress on transgender equality. Some 111 municipalities – up from 86 in 2016 – offered trans-inclusive benefits to employees.
Other key findings from the report:
86 cities from states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide average of 57 points. These cities averaged 84-point scores; 28 scored a perfect 100.
Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 41“All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 37 last year, 31 in 2016, 15 in 2014, eight in 2013, and just two in 2012.
The national city score average increased from 55 to 57 points. 68 cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 79 points; 50 percent scored over 59 points; 25 percent scored less than 35; and 11 cities scored zero points.
The Municipal Equality Index rated 506 cities on 44 criteria.
UPDATE | Mayor Kasim Reed said Atlanta's score shows that the city “champions inclusiveness.”
“I could not be prouder that the City of Atlanta has earned its fifth consecutive perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. My administration has always worked to make sure our policies and practices speak to our values, but in 2017, it’s even more important to state unequivocally that the City of Atlanta supports our LGTBQ employees, residents and visitors. Our Atlanta Police Department has its first-ever LGBT leader, Chief Erika Shields. APD works to build and strengthen relationships with the LGBTQ community and protect this population. We have demonstrated that we will uphold and champion inclusiveness, and will not retreat from defending LGBTQ rights.”
The full statement from Reed's office about the Municipal Equality Index:
Mayor Kasim Reed today announced that the City of Atlanta has earned another perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Municipal Equality Index (MEI). This is the fifth consecutive perfect score earned by the City, and the second straight year that the City of Atlanta earned four bonus points, the maximum available. Atlanta was once again the only city in Georgia to receive a perfect score in the index.
“I could not be prouder that the City of Atlanta has earned its fifth consecutive perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index,” said Mayor Kasim Reed. “My Administration has always worked to make sure our policies and practices speak to our values, but in 2017, it’s even more important to state unequivocally that the City of Atlanta supports our LGTBQ employees, residents and visitors. Our Atlanta Police Department has its first-ever LGBT leader, Chief Erika Shields. APD works to build and strengthen relationships with the LGBTQ community and protect this population. We have demonstrated that we will uphold and champion inclusiveness, and will not retreat from defending LGBTQ rights.”
Mayor Reed’s commitment to advocacy on behalf of the Georgia LGBT community dates back to his time as a Georgia state senator, where he was the chief sponsor of the state’s only LGBT-inclusive anti-hate crimes bill. He also led opposition against a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and served as an Honorary Co-Chair of the Mayors for Freedom to Marry campaign.
Earlier this year, Mayor Reed authorized the permanent installation of rainbow-themed artwork on crosswalks at the intersection of 10th and Piedmont, an historic place in Midtown where the LGBT community has gathered for both celebratory events and vigils. Hundreds of Atlanta residents gathered at this location following the tragic shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orland, Florida. In the weeks following the shooting, Mayor Reed met with LGBT leaders, business owners and event organizers at City Hall to discuss how to keep people attending events and nightclubs safe. After hearing from these leaders, Mayor Reed directed the Atlanta Police Department to hold a series of trainings to respond to active-shooter scenarios.
Mayor Reed has publicly opposed so-called religious freedom legislation for the last two years, which would allow religious discrimination against LGBT individuals in Georgia. Governor Deal vetoed the bill.
In 2016, the Reed Administration appointed Tracee McDaniel to the Atlanta Citizen Review Board, which provides citizen oversight of alleged police misconduct. Ms. McDaniel is the first transgender member of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board in the city’s history. Mayor Reed also supported President Obama’s executive action to ensure transgender women and men have access to their preferred restroom in City Hall and all other City facilities.
Under the Reed Administration, the City of Atlanta maintains transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage for City employees. Mayor Reed also amended the Atlanta Code to include gender identity in all non-discrimination provisions. In 2013, Mayor Reed appointed Atlanta Law Department Chief Counsel Robin Joy Shahar as Mayoral Advisor on LGBT Issues.
The MEI is a report that rates 506 municipalities around the country on their inclusivity of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents and employees, on the basis of laws, policies and services.