Madison gets perfect score on equality index

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The Human Rights Campaign released its second municipal equality index, giving 25 cities in the United States — including Wisconsin’s capital — perfect scores for policies, laws and programs furthering equality for LGBT citizens.

HRC rated 291 municipalities, looking at non-discrimination ordinances, equal employee benefits, relationship recognition, city service programs and also leadership.

The 25 cities to receive 100 points on the index include major cities: Chicago, Baltimore, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, St. Louis, Atlanta, Minneapolis and Kansas City, Mo. The list also includes Long Beach, Palm Springs and West Hollywood in California, Jersey City in New Jersey; Cambridge, Mass.; New Haven, Conn.; Austin, Texas; Portland, Ore.; Columbus, Ohio; Missoula, Mont., and Madison, Wis.

“The message is clear. Equality isn’t just for the coasts anymore. Real leadership is happening from Atlanta to Missoula to Salt Lake City and everywhere in between,” said HRC president Chad Griffin.

Eleven cities received perfect scores last year, the first year HRC published the index. The number of cities included in the index increased from 137 in 2012 to 291 in 2013.

To build the index, HRC examined the climate for LGBT people in the 50 state capitals, the 150 largest cities in the United States, the three largest cities in each state, the city home to the state’s largest public university and 75 municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples.

Highlighting the importance of local protections for LGBT people, HRC emphasized in the report that 31 million people live in cities where the only protections for transgender citizens are at the municipal level. Such is the case in Wisconsin, which lacks a state law banning discrimination based on gender identity and where Fair Wisconsin and other organizations are pressing for reform from city to city.

About 10 percent of the cities rated in the MEI scored more than 96 points, 25 percent scored more than 78 points and the average score on the index was 57 points. About 25 percent of the cities HRC looked at scored 35 points or less and 3.5 percent of the cities scored 10 points or less.

The index contained ratings for three Wisconsin cities: Madison, which earned 100 points; Milwaukee, which earned 91 points and Green Bay, which earned 48 points.