Milwaukee, Madison score high for LGBT-friendly policies and programs

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A new index scores cities – 137 of them – on LGBT policies and programs and gives perfect marks to 11.

Two cities in Wisconsin – Milwaukee and Madison – rank above average.

The first Municipal Equality Index, released by the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Federation Institute and Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute in late November, shows 11 cities with perfect scores. Those cities – “from both coasts and in between, of varying sizes, and not all in states with favorable laws for LGBT people” – are:

• Long Beach, Calif.

• Los Angeles

• San Diego

• San Francisco

• Boston

• Cambridge, Mass.

• St. Louis

• New York City

• Portland, Ore.

• Philadelphia

• Seattle

“Local and state-level advocacy ensures our voices are heard in public squares across the country,” HRC president Chad Griffin stated with the release of the results.

The index includes scores for Madison, which received 95 out of 100 points, and Milwaukee, which received 85 points. Those ratings prompted praise from representatives of Wisconsin LGBT groups, as well as calls to reach a perfect issue.

Katie Belanger of Fair Wisconsin said those who worked to expand domestic partnership benefits in the public and private sectors helped the cities earn the good marks. 

She added that the index is “an important tool for measuring this progress and educating fair-minded community leaders and elected officials how to create more inclusive communities across Wisconsin.”

“It’s clear that Wisconsin’s major municipalities are leading the way among our nation’s cities, but there is still more work to be done,” said Jason Rae of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

The indexers used 47 criteria under six categories to rate the cities: Non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment practices, and the inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership. 

The researchers looked at municipalities in every state, including the 50 state capitals, the 50 most populous cities in the country, and 25 large, 25 mid-size, and 25 small municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples.

A quarter of the cities scored above 80 points, nearly a third of cities scored between 40 and 60 points, just under a quarter of the cities scored less than 20 points, eight cities scored less than 10 points and three scored zero.

The cities with zero ratings are Jefferson City, Mo.; Montgomery, Ala.; and Frankfurt, Ky. – all chosen for review because they are state capitals.