Human Rights Campaign releases Municipal Equality Index in State College, highlights its progress

  • Min Xian/WPSU

(State College) — More cities are becoming increasingly inclusive when it comes to LGBTQ rights, according to the Human Rights Campaign, which released its eighth annual Municipal Equality Index in State College Tuesday.

The Human Rights Campaign said the index is meant to encourage the creation of non-discrimination laws nationwide. The organization said 88 cities or municipalities in the country scored the maximum of 100 points on its index this year, up from 78 the year before.

Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David said the current political climate continues to hurt LGBTQ rights.

“We have the federal government stripping away protections that LGBT people have had for decades,” David said. “So, it’s even more important that states and localities take the affirmative step to protect LGBTQ people.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering three cases on whether non-discrimination laws apply to sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. Many LGBTQ advocates worry that if the conservative-leaning court decides against extending protections for LGBTQ people, the effect will set back the rights of many. 

In the report, the campaign examined all 506 participating cities based on factors like having non-discrimination laws, providing benefits to LGBTQ employees and reporting hate crime to the FBI. Having elected officials who identify as LGBTQ is also a key.

State College scored 77 two years ago. But the borough has implemented a series of changes and initiatives, including banning conversion therapy for minors.

David said releasing this year’s index in State College was a deliberate choice.

“They worked over the past few years to get themselves to a place where they have inclusive policy. So we want to demonstrate to every locality and municipality that’s thinking about this, you can do it too,” he said.

“It’s heartwarming for me personally. And it’s a testament to the good nature and the commitment that I think local leaders ultimately have,” David added. “Every single year we’re increasing the number of localities that are participating, and it’s heartwarming to me to see small cities, small towns, large cities, large towns that are now participating in the equality Index, and seeing the value that this has on the community and also on their economies.”

Tamar London, co-chair of the Centre LGBTQA Support Network, which covers Centre County, said there’s still a lot to do across the state.

“I think it’s absolutely incredible and very encouraging,” London said.

“And I think 100 doesn’t necessarily mean 100,” she said. “In Pennsylvania you can still be discriminated against, legally, at work. You can be fired for being LGBTQ. While there are protections in the borough, that is not necessarily the case for the surrounding area.”

She pointed to the recent Pride Parade in Altoona as a postiive sign.

“So, I don’t think that we are the only area that that is progressive on this front. There are great examples all around us,” London said. “But it can be broadened, and we should try to bring in all people and all areas.”

Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Allentown also got full scores on the index. Harrisburg scored 69.

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