When it comes to creating an inclusive community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the City of Huntington ranks higher than many cities in West Virginia and across the country, according to a new report from the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.
The Human Rights Campaign has released its 2016 Municipal Equality Index, which ranks 506 U.S. cities of varying sizes on a number of factors, including nondiscrimination laws, municipal employment policies, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement with regard to LGBTQ persons and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
Huntington received a score of 85 on a 100-point scale, which is in the top 25 percent of cities that were evaluated. The nationwide average was 55.
Charles Town (50), Lewisburg (49), Morgantown (46) and Parkersburg (20) were also included in the report. Charleston and Wheeling were listed in the report as well but their scores were not immediately available Tuesday.
Huntington was also one of only 87 cities from states without nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people that scored above the nationwide average of 55 points. These cities averaged 80-point scores.
Huntington improved its score of 65 in last year’s report because of an LGBTQ liaison being assigned to the Huntington Police Department, providing services to those living with HIV/AIDS, leadership’s pro-equality policy efforts, and a nondiscrimination policy for city contractors.
“A year later, our expectations are even more resolute. We expect to be known as a city of honor, respect and compassion,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “And while I am pleased to know that we have made strides to become more inclusive in Huntington, our work is not done. We are organizing our community so that every person has a distinct and vested responsibility to advance our city’s prosperity.
“My vision is that we embrace our diversity and actively seek inclusiveness as we learn to stand as one people celebrating our differences. We will be able to shape our future by assuring every person in our city has a seat at the table and has a voice to be heard.”
The city’s labor liaison, Teresa Ball, continues to work with the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee, which was formed in 2015, on a number of initiatives to advance inclusiveness in Huntington, Mayor Williams said.
“As a resident of Huntington and as a member of the Mayor's LGBTQ Advisory Committee, I am so proud of the progress we have made in the area of LGBTQ rights,” said Kat Williams, the mayor’s liaison to the LGBTQ Advisory Committee. “Huntington is a diverse community and, as this report shows, we are also an inclusive one.
“For this city to grow and prosper, all of its citizens must have equal treatment and access. Under the mayor's leadership and with the hard work of our committee we are moving in that direction.”
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.
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