Tampa and St. Petersburg received perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, a nationwide assessment of cities’ commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion in laws, policies and services.
This is the eighth year St. Petersburg has received a perfect score, and the fourth year for Tampa. The Human Rights Campaign evaluated a total of 506 cities, including 20 Florida municipalities. In addition to Tampa and St. Petersburg, eight other Florida cities received a perfect score, including Tallahassee, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Hollywood, Oakland Park, Wilton Manors and Wellington.
The index rates cities based on their nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, city services and programs, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.
The nondiscrimination laws category looks for protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in housing, employment and public accommodations. It also assesses city laws aimed at preventing conversion therapy for minors and whether or not cities designate single-user bathrooms as all-gender facilities.
In the “municipality as an employer” category, the Human Rights Campaign evaluates whether the city’s hiring policies prohibit discrimination, as well as if it has trans-inclusive health care, hires contractors with anti-discrimination policies and fosters inclusivity in the workplace.
The index also evaluates city leadership and law enforcement relationships with the LGBTQ community, looking at factors such as whether or not the city and police force have LGBTQ liaisons, consistency in reporting hate crimes to the FBI, and local leaders’ participation in Pride marches or other pro-equality gestures.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Jim Nixon, the LGBTQ liaison for the city of St. Petersburg, said the city’s perfect score on the index is the result of policies and practices put into place under Mayor Rick Kriseman that have been deliberately aimed at equality.
“I think it’s a true representation of the city that Mayor Kriseman has challenged us to be,” Nixon said.
In a statement, Kriseman said he was proud of the city’s progress in working toward LGBTQ equality.
“Even though my time as mayor is coming to an end, I remain committed to this work and ensuring that LGBTQ residents and visitors forever view St. Pete as a city of opportunity, where the sun shines on us all,” he said.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement that her city’s perfect score on the index reflects its values.
“In Tampa, we celebrate Pride every day of the year by being a city that recognizes its diversity as one of its strongest assets,” she said. “This score reflects our mission to live up to this value.”