Richmond Maintains Perfect Score in LGBTQ+ City Ranking

Author: Christopher Wiggins

Richmond has once again demonstrated its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity by maintaining a perfect score of 100 in the

The MEI, conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, evaluates municipalities based on their inclusivity in laws, policies, and services for the LGBTQ+ community. Richmond’s consistent performance in this index reflects the city’s ongoing efforts to support and protect its LGBTQ+ residents.

Reflecting on this achievement, Mayor Levar Stoney told The Advocate, “When I became mayor, I think we were at 42, and over the last four or so years, we’ve been able to raise it to 100, a lot of workers involved.” This improvement underlines the city’s proactive approach to enhancing LGBTQ+ rights and support.

Key initiatives contributing to Richmond’s high score include legislation supporting a ban on conversion therapy, implementing transgender-affirming policies for local homeless services, and adapting health care policies for the city’s workforce to include gender-affirming care.

Stoney emphasized the importance of these policies.

“We now will cover gender-affirming care for our transgender community [in our] health care policy,” he said. “I thought that was very important.”

Richmond’s score stands in contrast to Newport News, which scored the lowest in Virginia with 66, showing that the commitment to LGBTQ+ equality does vary by city and town.

Stoney believes that Richmond’s progress serves as a model for other cities, underscoring the benefits of inclusive policies.

“We have a competitive advantage here in the South by being more welcoming and more inclusive,” he remarked, highlighting the positive impact of such policies on the city’s culture and values.

Richmond’s achievement in the MEI is not only a testament to the city’s commitment to LGBTQ+ rights but also a call to action for other municipalities to follow suit.

“We are writing a new chapter here in Richmond, our chapter that is inclusive and welcoming for all people,” Stoney said.

As the city celebrates its success, Stoney also acknowledged the efforts of various stakeholders in the community.

“We’ve always worked with the Nationz Foundation, Zakia McKensey, who is one of our number 1 stakeholders in our community,” he noted. The foundation’s mission includes LGBTQ+ rights and HIV prevention.

This collaboration with local nonprofits and community organizations has been pivotal in addressing the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community, particularly in areas of education and awareness for city employees and law enforcement.

Richmond’s approach extends beyond policy to include tangible support for vulnerable groups within the LGBTQ+ community. Stoney highlighted initiatives focused on the city’s youth and unhoused populations.

“A lot of our focus has been on homelessness services because we know the challenges that may occur in the LGBT community, specifically our transgender residents,” he said.

Looking to the future, Stoney emphasized the importance of building upon these achievements.

“I will always stand up, stand against any sort of bigotry, but also marginalization of our transgender and LGBT community,” he said.

In the larger context of the HRC 2023 Municipal Equality Index, Richmond’s perfect score is a beacon of hope amidst a challenging national climate for LGBTQ+ rights, especially as state legislatures attempt to rollback LGBTQ+ rights. Kelley Robinson, president of the Human Rights Campaign, highlighted the significance of this year’s MEI.

“This past summer, for the very first time in our history, the Human Rights Campaign declared a State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ people in America,” she said in a letter accompanying the report.

This statement underscores the critical role local governments play in safeguarding LGBTQ+ rights, especially in the face of over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures nationwide.

Richmond’s achievement is not an isolated success but part of a more significant trend of cities striving for inclusivity.

Fran Hutchins, executive director of the Equality Federation Institute, noted, “This year, a record-breaking 129 cities — over 25 percent of all MEI-rated cities — earned the highest score of 100, up from 120 in 2022.”

Cities like Richmond are leading the way, demonstrating the profound impact local policies and protections can have on the lives of LGBTQ+ individuals. These high-scoring cities serve as examples for others, showing that progress toward equality is achievable and crucial locally.

Richmond’s achievement in the Municipal Equality Index is particularly noteworthy given the state’s political landscape, especially under Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration. As the state capital, Richmond’s steadfast commitment to LGBTQ+ rights contrasts with broader attempts to roll back such rights in Virginia.

Youngkin, since taking office, has pursued policies and supported legislative efforts that are seen as detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community. His administration has been marked by actions that many view as undermining LGBTQ+ protections. For instance, there have been moves to restrict the rights of transgender students in schools, including limiting their participation in sports and access to facilities aligning with their gender identity. Additionally, the Youngkin administration has been criticized for policies that could potentially restrict discussions around LGBTQ+ topics in educational settings, echoing the controversial “don’t say gay” bill in Florida.

These actions have sparked significant concern among LGBTQ+ advocates and allies, who argue that such measures not only discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals but also contribute to a hostile and unwelcoming environment. The contrast between Richmond’s proactive actions to enhance LGBTQ+ inclusivity and the state-level efforts to limit these rights underlines the growing divide in approaches to LGBTQ+ issues within Virginia.

Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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