RICHMOND, Va. — The Human Rights Campaign spotlighted Richmond as a city “boldly leading the way to equality” in their annual Municipality Equality index report released Monday.
For the past six years, the HRC has rated cities across the United States on their initiatives to support LGBTQ communities based on a variety of curricula. The cities receive scores from 0-100 on items including non-discrimination laws, transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees, inclusive workplaces and LGBTQ liaisons in the city’s executive office among others.
As determined by the MEI scorecard, Richmond received a rating of 94 – the highest score in the state.
But back in 2017, Richmond received a score of only 42, a number that starkly contrasts the 2018 findings.
At the time, the HRC found that the city had no laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations. Moreover, Richmond lacked transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits as well as an LGBTQ liaison in the City Council.
In 2018 however, Richmond’s score improved by 50 points, making perfect marks in the categories of Non-Discrimination Laws, municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQ equality and earning the title of “MEI All-Star.”
“I am thrilled that Richmond has taken so many positive steps to protect and support our LGBTQ community,” Mayor Stoney said. “I have always said that no matter the color of your skin, the neighborhood you live in, or who you love, that you are welcome in the City of Richmond – and Richmond’s 2018 MEI scorecard echoes that message.”
In an announcement on Wednesday, Stoney said that the improvements were made possible through working with City Council to establish a Human Rights Commission and non-discrimination laws, designating a policy advisor to serve as the Mayor’s LGBTQ liaison, and offering transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees.
The report further recognizes Richmond’s ability to score high on the MEI index despite the state’s status as a Dillon Rule state. Like Tennesee and North Carolina, the Dillon Rule applies in Virginia, meaning that municipalities are prevented from passing non-discrimination protections other than those offered under state law. As outlined in the 2018 MEI report, this means that cities with a dedication to equality in Virginia will essentially never be able to score as well as cities in non-Dillon rule states with a comparable dedication to equality. In Virginia, Arlington County was recognized alongside Richmond as municipalities that managed to score high on the MEI index without supportive laws.
“I am delighted that Richmond is able to progress at this level,” said Mayor Stoney. “However, we would not have been able to make it this far without the help of officials, such as Councilmembers Parker Agelasto and Ellen Robertson, who were key in moving Richmond’s Human Rights Commission and non-discrimination laws forward in the city council.”