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What Does the Municipal Equality Index Really Say?

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opednews.com Headlined to H3 12/31/13

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At first glance, an index documenting how inclusive municipalities are sounds fantastic -- and it is, don't get me wrong.  But there are some serious problems with the Human Rights Campaign's priorities when it comes to their scorecard for the 2013 Municipal Equality Index.

The HRC has, for years now, failed to properly recognize and represent trans* folks, heavily prioritizing the gay-marriage issue over anything else, and the MEI reflects that.  According to the 2013 MEI report, which can be seen here, the HRC awards a score to the indexed municipalities of up to 100 for passing LGBT-inclusive legislation.  The MEI scorecard details the different types of legislation and the points associated with each ordinance deemed necessary for LGBT equality, awarding bonus points for "criteria not accessible to all cities at this time."  You know, whatever that means.

This sounds absolutely great and, perhaps with a little tweaking, it could be.  The problem with this is that, according to the scorecard, relationship recognition -- that is, marriage-equality and domestic-partnership  registeries -- are worth the most points.  According to the HRC, legal recognition of same-sex relationships is more important to LGBT equality than non-discrimination laws for workplace, housing, and services, each of which get 3 points as opposed to the 12 points awarded for marriage equality.

The real trouble with this is that "marriage equality" is just for gay people.  The issue is not inclusive at all to trans* folks; people do not even consider how this might effect the trans* community.  What does effect the trans* community, however, is workplace and housing discrimination, access to services and health care, hate crimes -- the list goes on.

It should be added that points are awarded separately for inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, respectively, and that some of the categories are treated as specific to sexual orientation when they should not be.  These categories include "Human Rights Commission," "LGBT liaisons to mayor's office and police department," and "Reported 2011 hate crimes to the FBI."  The implication being that LGB representation is enough and the T, just an after-thought.

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For the reporting of 2011's hate crimes against LGB individuals, the HRC awards 10 points.  The chart does not acknowledge the possibility of hate crime against trans* individuals, nor does it see the need to award points for trans* liaisons or representation in municipal governments or the local Human Rights Commission.  Further, there is a huge disparity in point values awarded for trans*-only legislation as opposed to LGB-only legislation.

Most, if not all, trans*-specific legislation is worth only "bonus points," the most appalling of which being "trans-inclusive health care" for municipal employees, which is worth 4 whole bonus points.  For providing services to "particularly vulnerable populations of the LGBT community," a city can earn a whopping 2 bonus points.  By "particularly vulnerable populations," I assume they mean queer people of color and, particularly, trans* women of color -- populations that seriously need representation and should not be sub-priorities.  Before they put together an "Equality Index," perhaps they should have considered just how unequal their actual point system is.

The provision for bonus points, quoted above, is exceedingly vague and reads like an excuse to prioritize the assimilation of cis LGB folks into the normative social structure, rather than promoting social justice for those who have been constantly left behind by the progressive movements that claim to care.  This may be fine and well for all the cis gay folks and straight allies on the HRC bandwagon, but from a trans* perspective, the MEI is downright insulting.
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A recent graduate from Flagler College, Jesse Ruth has been working as a freelance writer since April, 2013. Jesse is a GLBTQ activist who identifies as genderqueer or agender and prefers (more...)

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What Does the Municipal Equality Index Really Say?