HUNTINGTON — For the second year in a row, the City of Huntington has received a perfect score from the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization for creating an inclusive community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Human Rights Campaign Thursday released its 2020 Municipal Equality Index, which ranked 506 U.S. cities of varying sizes on several factors, including nondiscrimination laws, municipal employment policies, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement with regard to LGBTQ persons and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
Charleston also scored highly on the index, tallying a 92 on a 100-point scale. The two cities were the only ones of the seven evaluated in West Virginia to score above the nationwide average of 64. Huntington received a perfect score of 100 for the fifth consecutive year and was one of only 94 cities to receive a perfect score.
Charleston and Huntington were also designated as “All-Star” cities for scoring above 85 points despite hailing from a state without LGBTQ-inclusive statewide non-discrimination laws. Across the country, 61 cities like these set a standard of LGBTQ inclusiveness with exemplary, best-practice policies such as local non-discrimination laws, providing transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees and offering LGBTQ-inclusive city services.
Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, president of Huntington Pride Ally Layman and Fairness West Virginia Executive Director Andrew Schneider were included in the HRC’s national press conference about the index Thursday, joining the mayors of Atlanta and Anchorage.
When Williams took office in 2014, Huntington only had a score of 35 and he made it a priority to raise the city’s score. Williams credited the LGBTQ and diversity advisory committees and the success of the subsequent Open to All campaign as a big part of raising the score.
Layman said thanks to the Open to All campaign, she and her wife feel comfortable holding hands when walking down the street.
“[The stickers] are a simple act that show our city is full of lots of love,” she said.
Layman said thanks to Williams’ efforts, the city was able to have a successful Pride festival, something she said she never thought she would see in her lifetime.
Schneider said Huntington has shown that diversity and inclusion can help not only Fortune 500 companies, but small businesses in Appalachia.
“LGBTQ people may be protected in Huntington, but only 13 cities in West Virginia have similar protections,” he said. “Those protections don’t follow you once you leave city limits. It is time all West Virginians are given equal protection under the law. It is time to pass the West Virginia Fairness Act. If Huntington is ready for equality, our leaders should feel confident the rest of us are too.”
To see how other cities and other states scored, visit www.hrc.org/resources/municipal-equality-index.