Orlando, St. Pete, Tampa retain perfect HRC scores

ABOVE: Photo via HRC.

The Human Rights Campaign released its 11th Municipal Equality Index Nov. 30, revealing a record number of cities excelled in protecting LGBTQ rights this year – including Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa.

The MEI examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQ people who live and work there. It is the only nationwide assessment of its type, designed to illustrate “the striking advancements municipalities have made despite some being in states that have seen increased extremist-led anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and legislation.”

HRC determines the score based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality. Including Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa, a record 120 of the 506 cities rated earned the highest score of 100 this year.

“LGBTQ+ people everywhere deserve to live in welcoming places that are focused on building equality for all. Since its launch 11 years ago, the main priority of the Municipal Equality Index remains supporting and celebrating the work cities do to serve LGBTQ+ people in the places they call home,” HRC Senior Vice President of Policy and Political Affairs JoDee Winterhof said in a statement.

“This year, we’ve seen a disturbing number of extremist state legislators attacking transgender and non-binary youth for no reason other than to try to erase them and their families,” she continued. “However, we’re seeing local leaders continue to push forward in making equality and inclusion the cornerstone of their cities. By doing so, they have helped to create safe, welcoming spaces for all families while spurring economic growth by signaling to residents, visitors and employers that their city is open to everyone.”

A total of 19 cities were scored in Florida this year, which drew international attention for its “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law. Governor Ron DeSantis, who won a second term Nov.  8, utilized his first to champion a number of anti-LGBTQ policies targeting the entire community.

HRC scored Cape Coral, Coral Gables, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville, Hialeah, Hollywood, Jacksonville, Miami, Miami Shores, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pembroke Pines, Port Saint Lucie, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors in 2022.

Daytona Beach scored the lowest with 30 points. Joining Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa with perfect scores were Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Oakland Park, West Palm Beach and Wilton Manors.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer celebrated the news Nov. 30.

“I’m proud to share that City of Orlando has again received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index for our LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts,” he said. “This recognition highlights our collective work as a community to ensure that Orlando is a welcoming community for all residents.

“Our work as municipal government includes adding the LGBTQ+ community as a core part of our Community Investment Grant Program that provides millions of dollars in funding annually to non-profit groups, visibility and education,” he continued. “We’ve made great strides, but our efforts must and will continue. Together we’ll put equity and inclusion at the forefront of all that we do as a city and ensure that Orlando is a place that encourages all residents to be their authentic selves.”

“With the divisive nature of politics in our country, it is more important than ever to treat every resident in our community with respect,” openly LGBTQ Orlando District 4 City Commissioner Patty Sheehan also said in a release. “Obtaining a perfect score on the Municipality Equality Index solidifies Orlando’s commitment to fairness, equality and dignity for all.”

In St. Petersburg, this year’s score marked the first under Mayor Ken Welch. He also welcomed the news.

“In my first year as mayor, I am proud to be leading a city where intentional inclusivity guides our work,” Welch said in a press release. “After nine years of a perfect score on the Municipal Equality Index, it could be easy for St. Petersburg to become complacent. Rather, it is motivation for the City to explore more ways in which our LGBTQ+ community can be supported, promoted and valued.

“I appreciate the Human Rights Campaign for holding municipalities accountable, and I especially thank the City’s LGBTQ Liaison Jim Nixon for leading the charge in ensuring that St. Petersburg remains so,” he continued.

“St. Petersburg works hard to preserve the inclusive, welcoming city we have become over the last nine years with a perfect score,” Nixon added. “Under the leadership of Mayor Welch, our city continues to make inclusivity and equity part of this administration’s principles.

“In the face of anti-LGBTQ legislation, cities must continue to work towards achieving these benchmarks provided through the HRC Municipal Equality Index,” Nixon continued. “Even if municipalities do not reach 100, this road map of municipal policies and outreach has proven to make Florida cities more inclusive and equitable and have improved the quality of life for all its citizens.”

The city also shared the video below.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the city’s first openly LGBTQ mayor who announced her 2023 re-election campaign Nov. 28, also reflected on the news. She told Watermark that “Tampa’s celebration of its diversity, in both word and action, is a driving force for why so many members of the LGBTQ community are moving to and visiting our great city every day.

“As one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, we are committed to ensuring that all of our residents have the freedom to live without prejudice or exclusion,” she continued. “We appreciate being recognized again by HRC for the hard work that we have done to make this quality of life a reality for everyone.”

“The progress made on a local level for greater LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion for all has never been more important,” HRC State Legislative Director & Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley – the founding author of the MEI –  also noted in a statement. “The MEI continues to help guide, shape and inspire more LGBTQ+-inclusive laws and policies in cities of all sizes throughout the nation. At a time when extremist state and federal lawmakers are using increased inflammatory rhetoric and enacting anti-LGBTQ+ agendas, it’s inspiring to see cities continue to push themselves to better serve their LGBTQ+ communities.”

To view the HRC’s 2022 MEI report in full, visit HRC.org/MEI. You can view Orlando’s scorecard here, St. Petersburg’s here and Tampa’s here.

More in Nation

See More