1. News

Tampa, St. Pete earn perfect scores on national LGBTQ equality index

St. Petersburg has hit the mark for seven consecutive years. It’s the third year in a row for Tampa.

Tampa and St. Petersburg received perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide measurement of how well cities support their LGBTQ communities through law, policy and services.

Across Florida, 18 cities were selected to be ranked, six of which earned a perfect 100 point score, including Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tallahassee and Wilton Manors, according to the report released Thursday. Miami Beach and West Palm Beach were not selected to be rated but received perfect scores based on information they submitted.

St. Petersburg has earned a perfect score seven consecutive years. It’s the third year in a row for Tampa. This year, 94 cities earned a perfect score — the most in the index’s history, according to the report. A total of 506 cities were ranked.

The scorecard evaluates cities based in five categories including non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality.

The non-discrimination laws category takes into account whether the city prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. The report also evaluates the protections each city offers its LGBTQ employees, taking into account transgender inclusive health care and contracting with inclusive businesses.

When evaluating municipal services, the researchers looked at efforts by the city to include LGBTQ residents in programing, which might be demonstrated through youth bullying prevention policy and services targeted towards specific groups, such as LGBTQ older adults, LGBTQ people living with HIV or AIDS, LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness, and transgender people.

In addition, the scores evaluate law enforcement’s engagement with the community, and cities’ efforts toward pro-equality legislation and creating positions focused on LGBTQ equality.

“We recognize that building an inclusive city never ends. There’s always work to do,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement.

“We are proud to work alongside our corporate partners and statewide municipalities as we embrace equality,” said Jim Nixon, the city’s LGBTQ liaison. “It is not only the right thing to do, it helps businesses and economies thrive.”

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said, “Our LGBTQ community is part of Tampa’s colorful fabric, and we are honored to see our HRC score rise in reflection to the progress we have made in the past year to further justice and equity.”

The Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg provides partial funding for Times stories on equity. It does not select story topics and is not involved in the reporting or editing.