Atlanta scored 82 out of 100 on LGBT issues in the new Municipal Equality Index released by the Human Rights Campaign.
Three other Georgia municipalities — all known for being LGBT-friendly — received much lower scores: Decatur received a score of 27, the North Druid Hills area of Dekalb County received 15 and Avondale Estates, home to openly gay State Rep. Karla Drenner, scored 8.
The report examines almost 50 LGBT-related criteria in 137 cities, including the 50 state capitals, 50 cities with the highest populations in the country, and the top 25 large cities, top 25 medium-sized cities, and top 25 small cities with the highest concentrations of same-sex couples identified in the 2010 U.S. Census.
Scores are based on policies and procedures and are not a measure of the "climate" for LGBT people, since some areas can seem friendly and accepting even without actual laws on the books, HRC stressed.
Atlanta scores 82 for ‘municipal equality’; other Ga. cities fail LGBT ratings
“The MEI takes an even-handed look at cities big and small, from coast to coast and everywhere in between, in order to determine the extent to which city and municipal governments are leading the way on equal treatment for LGBT people. What we found motivated us,” said HRC President Chad Griffin in a letter announcing the MEI.
Atlanta scored the maximum possible points for LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination laws (18/18). It also got full credit in the category of relationship recognition for having a domestic partner registry (12/12).
Despite the previous controversy with the Atlanta Police Department’s unconstitutional 2009 raid on the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar, and ensuing lawsuits, the city also received the maximum points for the relationship between police and the LGBT community (18/18), based on having an LGBT liaison and reporting hate crimes statistics to the FBI.
But Atlanta received only 12 out of the possible 26 points related to the city as an employer, receiving full credit for its employee non-discrimination policy and domestic partner benefits, but losing points in categories like equivalent family leave and legal dependent benefits.
The city scored 13 out of a possible 18 points on municipal services and programs, losing 5 points for not having a mayoral LGBT office or liaison. Mayor Kasim Reed has said he prefers to have LGBT people integrated within his staff without having a specific office as well.
Finally, Atlanta received 4 out of 8 possible points for the city’s “relationship with the LGBT community,” scoring 3/5 for the city leadership’s public position on LGBT equality and 1/3 for local pro-equality legislative or policy efforts. The city also got bonus points in this category for having openly LGBT city leadership (+3) and “engaging” with the LGBT community through participating in Pride and working with LGBT groups (+2).
Statewide LGBT group Georgia Equality worked with HRC on the index.
“While we’re very proud of the work we have done to pass pro-equality ordinances and policies in 15 municipalities around the state, the Municipal Equality Index clearly indicates that there is much more work to do,” said Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality executive director, in a press release.
“We look forward to working with HRC and advocates throughout the state to not only expand the MEI to include other cities and counties, but to expand and strengthen protections for all LGBT communities in Georgia,” he said.
HRC hopes the guide will be a road map for improving polices and laws related to LGBT residents and employees.
“Even in states with few legal protections, LGBT equality is on the move on the municipal level,” Griffin said.
“We hope that the MEI will be a toolkit which helps cities and municipalities around the country better understand what they can do for their LGBT citizens.”
Some 11 cities scored 100 percent on the MEI, with California home to the most cities with perfect scores: Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.
Other cities with 100 percent were Boston and Cambridge in Massachusetts; St. Louis, Mo.; New York City; Portland, Ore.; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Seattle, Wash.
About 25 percent scored 80 or better, according to HRC.
For more information on the MEI, please click here.