State Of LGBT Equality In Michigan

By |2015-01-08T09:00:00-05:00January 8th, 2015|Michigan, News|

BY AJ TRAGER

MICHIGAN – The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released its third annual municipality index for LGBT equality in December 2014, highlighting 353 cities throughout the nation.
Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy and shows that cities around the nation, and in Michigan, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when state legislature has not.
Nine cities in the state were included in the HRC poll averaging 57 out of a total 100 possible. The national average sits at 59 out of 100. Ann Arbor received 83, Detroit: 74, East Lansing: 100, Ferndale: 57, Grand Rapids: 59, Lansing: 64, Pleasant Ridge: 44, Sterling Heights: 24 and Warren: 10.
The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements, and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
Fifty state capitals and the 150 largest cities in the country were rated as well as the three largest cities or municipalities in each state.
Scores were rated on a scale of 0-100 based on laws, policies, benefits and services. One hundred standard points were available as well as 20 bonus points for programming or actions that apply to some cities, but not all.
The ranking does not represent the atmosphere or quality of life of the municipality but is an evaluation of the laws and policies in an examination of inclusive services for LGBT individuals. Some high-scoring cities may not be truly welcoming for all LGBT people and some low-scoring cities may be more welcoming than existing policies suggest.

FERNDALE

Ferndale, for example, only received 57 out of 100 points but scored high on part one of the study because the city provides discrimination protections for housing, employment and public accommodations. The city scored low on part two, earning zero out of a possible 12 points for relationship recognition of marriage equality, civil unions, domestic partnerships and domestic partner registry. Part three of the study looked at the existence of domestic partner benefits offered by employers in the fields of non-discrimination in city employment, domestic partner health benefits, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, legal dependent benefits, equivalent family leave, city contractor non-discrimination ordinances and city contractor equal benefits ordinances. In this category, Ferndale lost points for lacking transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, equivalent family leave and city contractor non-discrimination and equal benefits ordinances.
Part four of the study assessed city efforts to ensure that LGBT citizens were included in city services and programs. Ferndale received a total of three points out of a possible 15. This section looked at enumerated anti-bullying policies, which the city has in place, but missed points for lacking an LGBT liaison to the city executive and access to the HRC.
Receiving 10 out of a possible 18 points in part five, Ferndale reported their 2012 hate crimes statistics to the FBI but didn’t have an LGBT police liaison or task force liaison.
The city earned 100 percent on part four which measured the city leadership’s commitment to fully include and advocate for LGBT equality in the areas of: existence of public leadership positions on LGBT equality and existence of leadership in pro-equality legislative or policy efforts. However, Ferndale did earn an extra three points in this category for having openly LGBT elected or appointed municipal leaders, resulting in a total of 54 earned points and three bonus.

ANN ARBOR

The arbor city earned 100 percent in part one for fully prohibiting employment, housing and public accommodation discrimination; they also earned a 100 percent for part two of the assessment by offering comprehensive domestic partnership, marriage or civil union recognition.
However, in part three, the city lost points for absence of transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, legal dependent benefits and city contractor equal benefits ordinances, though the city does have a contractor non-discrimination ordinance.
Earning 10 out of a possible 15 points in part four, Ann Arbor lacks an LGBT liaison to the city executive but includes enumerated anti-bullying policies and a representative to the Human Rights Commission. Ann Arbor also lost points in part five for lacking an LGBT police liaison or task force representative but did report its 2013 hate crimes statistics to the FBI. The city earned 100 percent for part five which includes public LGBT leadership positions and pro-equality policy efforts. Five additional points were earned for the existence of openly LGBT elected or appointed leaders and city limits that test restrictive state laws to finish out the assessment with a total of 78 awarded points in parts one through five (plus the five extra bonus points.)

EAST LANSING

East Lansing received an 86 percent rating in 2013 and in the past year has worked very closely with the HRC to find ways of closing the gap to receive a perfect score. East Lansing, together with Ann Arbor, formulated a domestic partner registry which would allow East Lansing to recognize the validity of same-sex relationships.
The city lost points for not having an LGBT liaison to the executive chair of the city and for not providing trans-inclusive health benefits. The city enacted its own ordinance which prohibited city contracting with firms who do not provide equal benefits for their employees and also provides city-wide health policies that include equivalent family leave.

DETROIT

The motor city earned 100 percent on part one but zero percent on part two from lacking relationship recognitions for LGBT individuals. Detroit lost significant points in part three for a lack of domestic partner health benefits, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, legal dependent benefits, equivalent family leave for LGBT individuals and a city contractor equal benefits ordinance.
Detroit went on to lose half of possible points in part four due to the absence of an LGBT liaison to the city executive but earned three bonus points for the existence of a non-discrimination ordinance for law enforcement by the city executives. Points also came from providing services to people living with HIV/AIDS.

NATIONAL

Cities in all regions of the country earned excellent scores, demonstrating that commitment to LGBT equality is not confined to parts of the country many people assume are most LGBT friendly.
38 cities received perfect scores, even with this year’s more demanding criteria; that’s up from 11 in 2012 and 25 in 2013.
Cities continue to excel even without depending on state law: Of cities that scored a perfect 100, 15 are in states that don’t have comprehensive relationship recognition or a statewide non-discrimination law; that’s up from eight cities last year, and just two in 2012.
32 million people now live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state or the federal government.
The average city score was 59 points, with half of the cities researched scoring over 61 points. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 80 points; 25 percent scored under 44 points; and four percent scored fewer than 10 points.
Cities with a higher proportion of same-sex couples tended, not surprisingly, to score better.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.