St. Petersburg earns perfect score for attention to LGBT issues

A pair of bikers get rolling in the St. Petersburg LGBT Pride Parade on June 28. 
A pair of bikers get rolling in the St. Petersburg LGBT Pride Parade on June 28. 
Published Nov. 13, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — When it comes to promotion of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents, St. Petersburg gets a perfect score, according to a national report card.

The Human Rights Campaign, based in Washington, D.C., which three years ago began ranking cities based on LGBT inclusion in local laws and policy, gave St. Petersburg 100 out of 100 points on its 2014 Municipal Equality Index — a score received by three cities in Florida.

Tampa was close behind, with 97 points.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and other officials hailed the new ranking at a news conference Wednesday morning on the steps of City Hall.

"Today's score is just one measure of the evolution St. Petersburg is going through," said Brian Winfield of Equality Florida, headquartered in St. Petersburg. "When a city supports diversity, it's really supporting its people."

So how much attention do cities actually pay to these rankings? A lot.

When the civil rights organization ranked Tampa as the leading city in Florida in fall 2013, officials on the west side of the bay took notice. In the 2013 rankings, St. Petersburg got 66 points. Tampa got 89.

So a couple of months after taking office, Kriseman's administration announced it was designating staffers to form better relationships with the LGBT community.

Officials figured they could get five more points on the equality study by having an LGBT liaison in the mayor's office, and eight more if a similar position was created at the Police Department.

Not everyone was impressed.

Council member Darden Rice has consistently said she'd like the city to consider installing a diversity officer — and not just for points.

Yet Kriseman also has been praised throughout the year for his attentiveness to LGBT issues, including his embrace of the city's annual Pride parade.

Kriseman said the dramatic increase in the city's score is "no accident." He and chamber of commerce CEO Chris Steinocher also emphasized that diversity fuels economic development.

"We have to make sure the welcome mat it out for everybody," Steinocher said.

This year, both St. Petersburg and Tampa got high marks for antidiscrimination laws, domestic partner registries and their leaders' relationship with the LGBT community.

But St. Petersburg got bonus points for providing services and supporting LGBT homeless, youth and elderly.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the average score for Florida cities on the equality index is 65; the national average is 59.

This year, the group ranked 15 cities in the state. Ranked by score, they are:

• St. Petersburg: 100

• Orlando: 100

• Wilton Manors: 100

• Tampa: 97

• Oakland Park: 87

• Tallahassee: 81

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• Fort Lauderdale: 76

• Hollywood: 61

• Miami Shores: 61

• Miami: 53

• Pembroke Pines: 51

• Hialeah: 49

• Cape Coral: 22

• Jacksonville: 20

• Port St. Lucie: 14