Early this week the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute, issued a report on the state of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in America’s cities, including three here in Louisiana. The 2013 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is the second edition of the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law. Special thanks to HRC for highlighting the local efforts and incremental change that is happening around the country.
This year the MEI took a snapshot of New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport. The areas scored include non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipal employment and contracting policies, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement, and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
New Orleans scored 91 out of 100, a major jump from last year’s number of 79. This increase in large part reflects the New Orleans Police Department’s new LGBT policy, crafted through collaboration between the NOPD, BreakOUT!, Councilmember LaToya Cantrell’s office, Louisiana Trans Advocates, and Forum for Equality. We also saw the community join together to save the Orleans Parish School Board’s inclusive anti-bullying policy from hateful infighting.
Baton Rouge scored just 7 out of 100, highlighting the drastic difference between cities just seventy miles apart. The increase from an abysmal 2 on last year’s score was due to Baton Rouge’s Mayor Kip Holden Executive Order to protect parish employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Forum for Equality met with Mayor Holden this year to discuss expanding the protections to include gender identity as well, and will continue to work with him and his administration on ways to expand equal rights in the Capital City.
Shreveport is new to the MEI this year, scoring 16 out of 100, thanks to the Executive Order expanding the civil employment non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. This achievement and others are a result of the work that PACE and Forum for Equality have been engaged in since 2007. Shreveport’s rank will surely improve in future years, due to sustained community engagement on the part of PACE and the joint FFE and PACE pro-equality campaign Be Fair Shreveport.
While we aren’t shocked that Louisiana didn’t achieve across-the-board excellent scores, we see that the tide of LGBT equality is reaching these cities, in conversations and in incremental steps. The best way to increase next year’s MEI rankings for Louisiana’s cities is to increase your participation in your community! Email me about ways to get involved at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, there is much work to be done, but we are hardworking and hopeful, not just for these cities, but for all of Louisiana.
With Equality for All,
Executive Director, Forum for Equality