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Huntington ranks higher than state, national average on 2015 Municipal Equality Index

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 LGBT civil rights organization.

The Human Rights Campaign released its 2015 Municipal Equality Index on Thursday, Dec. 17, which ranks 408 U.S. cities of varying sizes on a number of factors, including non-discrimination laws, how the city acts as an employer, services the city provides, law enforcement with regard to LGBT persons and the city’s relationship with the LGBT community.

Huntington received a score of 65 on a 100-point scale, which is 23 points higher than the average score for cities in West Virginia. Charleston, Morgantown, Parkersburg and Wheeling were also included in the report. The national average was 56.

Huntington improved its score of 43 in last year’s report because of Huntington City Council’s passage of an anti-discrimination ordinance, the assignment of an LGBT liaison to city executives and leadership’s public position on equality.

“While I am pleased to know that we have made strides to become more inclusive in Huntington, our work is not done,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “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, is now working with the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee, which was formed earlier this year, on a number of initiatives to advance inclusiveness in Huntington, Mayor Williams said.

Those initiatives include an ordinance that would require all city employees to receive diversity training and a hate crime resolution to send a message that such activity is not tolerated in Huntington. Tim Dixon, pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ and a member of the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Committee, will also serve as a liaison to the Huntington Police Department in an effort to form a strong partnership between law enforcement and the LGBT community.

“As a resident of Huntington and as a member of the Mayor's LGBT Advisory Committee, I am so proud of the progress we have made in the area of LGBT rights,” said Kat Williams, the mayor’s liaison to the LGBT 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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