With House Bill 2 still looming over North Carolina, the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index means a lot this year. As protections for LGBTQ individuals have been rolled back, it's clear that while some cities in the state are working to create a safe and equal environment for LGBTQ residents, others have a lot of work to do.
This is the fifth MEI report conducted by the HRC looking into "how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there."
It rates 506 cities, including ten in North Carolina.
Here's how each of the ten cities rank
on a scale of 100:
The report itself even pointed to the pressures of HB2 on municipalities
Because cities are delegated their power to govern by the states, the legal authority of a city to legislate around issues of discrimination varies greatly from one state to the next, and sometimes even from city to city. Essentially, a state has the ability to reserve the power to legislate on a certain subject to itself (known in some states as “Dillon’s Rule”), to explicitly grant the city the power to legislate on the subject, to allow the city the power to legislate on a certain subject without an explicit grant of authority, or to revoke the power to legislate on a certain subject after the city has been previously given the power to do so. This last is known as “preemption,” and HB2 is an example of this type of legislation.
The report describes HB 2 as "one of the worst anti-LGBTQ bills ever" because of the publically-owned facilities clause (aka the bathroom part of the bill) and other portions of it.
The scoring of the municipalities focuses on five areas: non-discrimination laws, how the municipality rates as an employer, services and programs available, law enforcement, and relationships with the LGBTQ community as a whole.
So, let's break down what that means. Durham's score was 69.
All North Carolina cities rated were already set up to lose points because of HB 2—meaning it looks at non-discrimination laws in the city, county, or state in three areas (housing, employment, and public accommodations). Out of a possible thirty points, all North Carolina cities received zero.
When it comes to the municipality as an employer, the index takes into account benefits and protections to LGBTQ employees, as well as contracts awarded to businesses. For services, the index takes into account efforts from the city to include LGBTQ residents in services and programs. The law enforcement category focuses on "responsible reporting of hate crimes and engaging with the LGBTQ community in a thoughtful and respectful way." And in the final category—relationship with the LGBTQ community—the HRC examines "the city leadership's commitment to fully include the LGBTQ community and to advocate for full equality."
Durham wasn't on the MEI on 2015, but in 2014, it was on the index and had a score of 59/100. In 2013 it scored 56/100.
One thing that we can definitely see that changed was the addition of an LGBTQ liaison within the Durham Police Department—which was a position that was newly appointed this year
to officer Charles Strickland Jr.
While Durham continues to make strides in serving all residents equally, it's clear from this index that there is still a lot of work to do. While the city already provides services to LGBTQ homeless, it is lacking in services to the LGBTQ youth and elderly. It also lacks transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, according to the index.