Atlanta perfect on LGBTQ equality for eighth straight year

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The City of Atlanta once again earned its highest-ever score on the 2020 Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. Two other cities in Georgia made big jumps in the right direction. Another five failed to improve their flunking grades.

HRC released the eighth annual report last week.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (photo) celebrated the city’s highest-ever score of 109 in a press release.

“Atlanta’s diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and our position as a global leader is due in large part to the invaluable contributions made by generations of LGBTQ residents in our city,” Bottoms said. “While we are proud to receive this honor, our Administration continues to push for more progress and support for our LGBTQ communities so that we are truly One Atlanta.”’

Among her 2020 activities, the mayor promoted her LGBTQ liaison and refreshed her LGBTQ advisory board.

This is the eighth consecutive year that Atlanta scored perfect-or-better on the MEI. HRC gave Atlanta an 82 when the MEI first started in 2012. The city then started a streak of perfect scores in 20132014201520162017, 2018 and 2019.

The MEI rates hundreds of cities across the country in five areas – non-discrimination laws, how the city treats its LGBTQ employees, municipal services, law enforcement and relationship with the LGBTQ community.

The 2020 report again included 11 Georgia cities and geographic areas. Three of those improved on last year’s scores: Atlanta, Decatur and Savannah. The latter two jumped dramatically from failing grades over the past several years.

Since the last report, Decatur adopted a broad non-discrimination ordinance that extends to LGBTQ people. Savannah expanded its inclusive non-discrimination ordinance in August and elected its first-ever openly LGBTQ City Councilmember since the last MEI report.

Doraville tied its debut score from last year. City Councilmember Stephe Koontz remains the only openly transgender elected official in Georgia, and out Councilmember Joseph Geierman became the city’s first openly gay mayor in December 2019. The city was among the first in Georgia to pass a broad LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance in 2018.

Athens-Clarke County’s score fell the most dramatically, from 40 to 29. Despite small gains in other areas, it lost 12 points for not reporting its 2019 hate crime statistics to the FBI. It did so the previous year. Mariah Parker became the first openly LGBTQ person elected to the Athens-Clarke County Commission when she won a special election in 2018.

Georgia’s 2020 scores (2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 scores if available) and links to their reports below:

HRC Executive Director Alphonso David said that cities mostly stood up to the anti-LGBTQ attacks of the Trump administration.

“The results of this year’s Municipality Equality show definitive evidence that our local leaders across the nation are standing up for equality – even as they faced headwinds from state governments or the Trump-Pence administration,” he said in a press release.

“There is no question that the Trump administration made every effort to attack laws aimed to protect LGBTQ people, and our cities have responded with inclusivity and innovative public policy,” he added.

Other key findings from the report:

  • A record 94 cities earned their highest scores ever this year, up from 88 in 2019.
  • The average score increased each year since Donald Trump took office, from 57 in 2016 to 64 this year.
  • For the fourth year in a row, every 100-point city included LGBTQ police liaisons.

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