On Nov 27, 2012, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released their first annual edition of a Municipal Equality Index. Tennessee, even as a strong red state, does have some cities that are islands of equality, including Knoxville. However, Knoxville was not included in this index despite recent LGBT advancements.
Quote from HRC Blog –
Today HRC is proud to release the first annual edition of the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a report released in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay and Lesbian Leadership Institute that evaluates the laws and policies of 137 cities across the nation. Cities in every region of the country are fighting for equality at the most intimate level of government, and this exciting report is an opportunity to celebrate the successes of the cities doing terrific work while also offering a path forward for cities that still have a long way to go. It makes a case for why cities should invest in equal laws and policies, and it tells the stories of advocates who are doing terrific work at the municipal level. Eleven of the 137 cities surveyed earned a perfect score of 100 points – these cities came from both coasts and in between, were of varying sizes, and not all are in states with favorable laws for LGBT people.
The MEI rates municipalities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories: non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, the municipality’s employment practices, and the inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement, and municipal leadership. The municipalities are drawn from every state in the nation and include the 50 state capitals, the 50 most populous cities in the country, and 25 large, 25 mid-size, and 25 small municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples.
Of the 137 cities evaluated only two Tennessee cities were included; Memphis and Nashville. Knoxville and Chattanooga are also large municipalities by Tennessee standards and midsize by US standards but were completely ignored, meanwhile other comparative states had many more like Texas with seven cities. The survey allowed a maximum of 100 points, and allowed bonus points to bring failing cities to a higher level. Memphis received a final 22 points after including bonuses, Nashville finished with 50 points.
What would Knoxville have scored if HRC had included it in their Municipal Equality Index?
In January of this year Knoxville had scored the #8 spot on The Advocates annual “Gayest Cities in America” survey, all the reasons Knoxville made #8 in that project are also positive score points for HRC’s Index. In May, City of Knoxville passed an ordinance that upgraded the City hiring policy to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, that same ordinance was a big bonus item for Nashville in this Index. Knoxville does not have a history of targeting Transgender people for violence and murder, unlike Memphis who was second only to Washington DC for anti-Trans violence in 2007-08. With the increase in welcoming congregations, strengthening of Knoxville Pride and Knoxville Human Rights Group, existence of three long standing Transgender support groups, a LGBT awareness unit within Knoxville Police Department, and a University campus that has taken great strides in LGBT awareness and acceptance, the final score could have been significantly higher than some would expect. Unfortunately we will never know that number for 2012.
Interested readers can download the report or read the virtual publication at bottom of HRC’s MEI page. Full-length, detailed scorecards for each municipality are also available.