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.

In addition to Charleston and Huntington, Wheeling (59), Charles Town (45), Lewisburg (45), Morgantown (77) and Parkersburg (13) were also included in the report.

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.

President-elect Joe Biden will make LGBTQ rights a priority in his administration. Biden has repeatedly stressed to advocates that he would move swiftly to repeal several of Donald Trump’s executive orders.

Biden specifically plans to reverse the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military members. Restoring nondiscrimination requirements for federal contractors and creating high-level LGBTQ-rights positions in federal agencies are also priorities.

The president-elect’s plan also calls for passage of an omnibus LGBTQ rights bill, the Equality Act, within his first 100 days in office. The proposed legislation has languished in Congress during the Trump administration.

But passage of the bill is far from assured. While Democrats retain control of the House of Representatives, a special election in Georgia will decide the fate of the Senate majority. Both Senate seats in the Peach State are up for grabs; Democrats will get control off the Senate if both Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock win their races in January, allowing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to cast the deciding vote.

Without winning the two seats, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will return as Senate majority leader. He has already promised to derail any of Biden’s cabinet nominations, picks for the federal judiciary, and legislative priorities.

Neither Ossoff or Warnock have ever been elected to office before, but both have pledged to be strong allies for LGBTQ causes in the Senate.

Rev. Warnock in particular has a long track record in support of LGBTQ people. As the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor, he has carried on King’s tradition of advocating civil rights, while including the LGBTQ community.

“There are gay sisters and brothers all around us,” Warnock told his congregation in 2012.“The church needs to be honest about human sexuality. Some of them are on the usher board, they greeted you this morning.”

Ossoff was an investigative reporter and Congressional aide before running for office. “I will fight for marriage equality. I will fight for adoption rights for gay couples,” Ossoff told Project Q Atlanta in September, “and I will oppose cynical legislative efforts to marginalize and discriminate against LGBT Americans.”

Leave it to Laverne Cox to shine bright amid both a pandemic and a politically divisive moment for the world. A Netflix documentary she executive-produced, “Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen,” debuted to great acclaim in June. And her acting career is in high gear, too, with plum roles in the films “Bad Hair” and “Promising Young Woman,” as well as Shonda Rhimes’ “Inventing Anna,” a limited series due out next year.

However, the Emmy-nominated “Orange Is the New Black” star and transgender rights activist is conscious of the fact that her professional highs are set against a sobering reality. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2020 has already been the deadliest year on record for trans and gender-nonconforming people, with 37 known victims of fatal violence so far. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has left many members of the trans community without access to social support and gender-affirming health care.

To end the year on a positive note for her community, Cox partnered with Citi to promote the bank’s True Name initiative. Created in conjunction with Mastercard and unveiled last month, the program is billed as a first among major banks, offering transgender and nonbinary customers the ability to use their chosen names instead of their legal name or deadname. Previously, the feature was only accessible to those who underwent a legal name change.

“When I changed my name legally 20 years ago and received my new ID with my chosen name reflected, it was so empowering,” Cox told HuffPost in an interview, noting that she’s hopeful other banks will follow Citi’s lead. “I know as a trans person, having ID documents that don’t match who we are can also be a safety issue.”

If it succeeds, Citi’s True Name effort could have a major impact in addressing such concerns. A 2015 National Center for Transgender Equality report found that 68% of respondents did not have a single ID card printed with their gender identity or their chosen name.

According to Citi’s chief marketing officer, Carla Hassan, more than 1,700 customers had already updated their name and gender identity in the month since the program launched, which she feels is “a testament to its direct impact.”

“Our hope is that trans and nonbinary customers feel recognized, accepted and empowered by this initiative,” Hassan told HuffPost. “I believe that any time is the right time to be speaking up for LGBTQ equality and rights. This is a journey that needs to last week beyond any one moment in time, with a continuous commitment to effecting change.”

Though LGBTQ rights as a whole have been rolled back under President Donald Trump, many transgender people have said they’re optimistic following Joe Biden’s election win earlier this month. The president-elect went on to single out trans voters in his victory speech, and last week, acknowledged Transgender Day of Remembrance (Nov. 20) with a poignant note on Twitter.

Cox, for her part, has expressed a measured response to the election results in interviews. But she’s hopeful the Biden era will allow the Supreme Court’s June ruling protecting LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination to “fulfill its promise.”

She’d also like to see better protections in place for transgender youth in schools, as well as the narrative around transphobic violence reframed.

“I would love the media talking about solutions to ending violence against trans people,” she said. “Helping to improve the material conditions of trans people through employment opportunities and housing could reduce violence against trans people.”

She continued, “We also need to contextualize violence against trans folks in the context of intimate partner violence. We need to make a world where men being attracted to trans women is no longer deeply stigmatized. This is a huge reason why trans women are dying.”

 

NEW YORK — In it’s post-election poll, GLAAD found that LGBTQ people overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

The organizations announced their findings in a blog post on Friday, Nov. 20.

The poll, conducted Nov. 9-14 with 800 LGBTQ respondents by Pathfinder Opinion Research, found that 93% of respondents who reported being LGBTQ registered voters said they voted this year. 25% voted for the first time.

Among all LGBTQ voters, 81% voted for Biden and 14% for Trump. Among first-time LGBTQ voters, 86% voted for Biden, 10% for Trump.

GLAAD’s poll shows significantly stronger LGBTQ support for Biden, and significantly weaker support for Trump, than exit polls conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Poll. Edison’s data, widely reported after Election Day, found Trump received 27% of the LGBT vote. However, the reported sample size was approximately 250 LGBT respondents, with a margin of error of 7%. GLAAD’s poll sample size was 800 respondents. For this survey, the overall credibility interval is 3.5%. The credibility interval for subgroups would be larger. The Edison exit poll data was collected in person on Election Day as well with early voters over the phone, a nontraditional combination of collection methods due to the pandemic and to account for mail-in voting. 

According to the poll, the top issues for LGBTQ voters were:

  • COVID-19 response: 54%
  • Healthcare: 25%
  • Racial Justice: 22%
  • LGBTQ equality: 21%
  • Jobs & economy: 18%
  • Environment/climate change: 16%

Among LGBTQ adults, 78% rated Biden “excellent or good” in addressing LGBTQ issues during the campaign. 80% rated Trump “not so good or poor” in addressing LGBTQ issues during the campaign. Also, 59% of LGBTQ voters said they didn’t see election-related news coverage of LGBTQ issues during the Presidential campaign.

“GLAAD’s poll confirms the impact of the LGBTQ vote as a deciding difference in the 2020 election, especially first-time LGBTQ voters who led a powerful surge of support for the pro-equality ticket,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis.

While the poll did find that queer voters were feeling more optimistic after the election, they still had concerns of possible rollbacks in the courts:

  • 80% concerned about LGBTQ employment protections
  • 80% concerned about transgender protections
  • 77% concerned marriage equality will be overturned
  • 74% concerned Roe vs. Wade will be overturned
  • 73% concerned the Affordable Care Act will be overturned
  • 83% of LGBTQ voters in GLAAD’S 2020 poll said it was very/somewhat important to have an LGBTQ justice nominated to the Supreme Court.

The poll showed how engaged the LGBTQ community is in the voting process. It found that 88% of LGBTQ Americans were registered to vote and of those, 93% voted in this year’s election.

The Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant has awarded $675,000 to 22 writers to support critical writing on contemporary art. The grants range from $15,000 to $50,000 and are awarded to writers addressing general and specialized art audiences in three categories: Books, articles, and short-form writing.

Among the authors receiving grants to support forthcoming book projects are Naeem Mohaiemen and Anjali Singh for Harmit Singh’s War, Jeannine Tang for Living Legends: The Art and Care of Queer and Transgender History, and Ariel Goldberg for Just Captions: Ethics of Trans and Queer Image Cultures. A complete list of 2020 Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant winners is available on the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant website.

President of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Joel Wachs said, “Through their rigorous and generous engagement with artists and art works, their close reading of historical and cultural contexts, and their creative juxtaposition of disparate practices, arts writers illuminate the unique way art engages with and explicates our idea of a national consciousness.”

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