Tampa scores high in new report on LGBT equality; St. Pete and other Florida cities above average

11/19/13 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: LGBT, equality, Human Rights Campaign, equality florida, Tampa, St. Pete, Florida, marriage equality, domestic partnership


Motorcycles adorned with rainbow flags during the 2013 St. Pete Pride parade.

photo by Janelle Irwin/WMNF News

Tampa ranks high for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality in American cities in a report released today by the Human Rights Campaign.

The LGBT rights group gives Tampa 89 points and St. Petersburg 66 points out of 100.

The Municipal Equality Index report was written by Cathryn Oakley, legislative council for state and municipal advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign.

"The Municipal Quality index rates 291 cities on the basis of how inclusive their laws and policies are for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. LGBT. We rate cities on six major categories. First is non-discrimination, whether the city has a non-discrimination ordinance or whether there's a law at a different level that protects the citizens of the city from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. That's the first section. The second one is relationship recognition. In Florida because there's no marriage equality or other statewide relationship recognition, we're talking mostly about domestic partner registry. Then also the third section is how cities treat their own employees. We're looking at their employment policies and the kind of benefits that they offer for LGBT people. Next we also look at city services and how inclusive city services are toward LGBT people. Law enforcement; how inclusive the police department is and the law enforcement in that community. Finally what kind of leadership the city leadership has shown on matters of LGBT equality."

You rated several cities within Florida, how did Florida turn out overall and give us an idea of some of the better cities in Florida and some of the less equal cities.

"Florida is a great example of why municipal work is so important. At the state level Florida doesn't really have great laws on matters of LGBT equality, but at the local level people, local advocates, including Equality Florida have just done an incredible amount of work throughout the state and it's something that you can see that at the city and county level that places are really taking seriously. There are real important substantive protections that can be extended at the city and county level and you see that that's been happening throughout Florida. Tampa is a really great example this year. Tampa scored 89 points which is really wonderful and it shows that the city has really dedicated themselves to making it a more inclusive place. One of the things that I think it's important to mention about why this is the kind of thing that should matter to cities; of course there are the moral imperatives about treating people equally and fairly and respectfully; and there are also economic considerations to take into account as well. LGBT people live and work all throughout the state of Florida but it's also, there are studies that show that, including research by Richard Florida who writes the introduction to the MEI, that cities really have an economic incentive to be inclusive of LGBT people. That being inclusive is a driver for growth for cities. So a city like Tampa has done a lot of work to make sure that they are really out in front which is wonderful and there are other cities that didn't do quite as well but in general Florida is a really, really great example of how much work can be done at the local and county level."

What changed things for Tampa this year? What made it such an improvement?

"Tampa has worked really hard this year to make sure that they were extending better non-discrimination policies, so that's one of the things that they did. They're also offering domestic partner benefits to same sex couples who work for the city government."

Another city in our listening area, St. Petersburg, scored a lot lower than Tampa, 66 points. What are some things that St. Petersburg could do in your mind to improve their equality score?

"St. Petersburg didn't score as well as Tampa did on some of the employment policies so that's something that they could improve on. Although I would also point out that both St. Petersburg and Tampa scored well above the national average, which was 57 points. I would also just like to point out that Miami Beach was not officially rated by the MEI this year because it did not fall into our city selection criteria but they did self submit themselves and they scored 100 points. That is something that they took very seriously and they wanted to make sure that they were out there with this reputation of being a really inclusive and welcoming place and so they took the initiative and made sure that their city got to show off who they are so I just want to mention that because it is really important."

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