Human Rights Campaign rates 15 Florida cities on equality laws

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Human Rights Campaign rates 15 Florida cities on equality laws

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Laws across 15 Florida cities span a dramatic range in providing for gender and sexual orientation equality, according to the Municipality Equality Index just released by the Human Rights Campaign.

The report evaluated 291 American cities including the 50 state capitals, the 150 largest cities in the US, the three largest cities or municipalities in each state, the city home to the state’s largest public university, and 75 cities that have high proportions of same-sex couples.

Each city was rated on a number of factors, with a total of 100 possible points assigned.

Criteria included: Non-discrimination laws for employment, housing and public accommodations; relationship recognition laws such as marriage equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and the existence of a municipal domestic partner registry; equivalent benefits for municipal employees including domestic partner health benefits, legal dependent benefits, equivalent family leave, and city contractor ordinances; conditions surrounding municipal services such as having a Human Rights Commission, an LGBT liaison, or enumerated anti-bullying school policies; law enforcement practices such as having a police liaison or task force, and reported hate crimes statistics to the FBI; and finally, the stated positions of city leadership on LGBT equality and pro-equality legislative or policy efforts. Bonus points were awarded for having an openly LGBT elected or appointed municipal leader and for municipal-level pro-equality measures despite being within a restrictive state.

A close look at city law versus state law provides a broader, more detailed portrait of equality conditions across the nation.

For example, the report states, of the 25 cities that scored 100 points, eight were from within states without comprehensive relationship recognition and without statewide non-discrimination laws.

The average city score was 57, with 25 percent of cities scoring more than 78 points and 10 percent scoring more than 96 points. Another quarter of cities scored below 35 points, and 3.5 percent scored fewer than 10 points.

Nationwide, 58 percent of cities have relationship recognition laws, and 78 percent have non-discrimination policies inclusive of gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Just under 74 percent of cities have anti-bullying protections in schools on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Fifteen Florida cities met the conditions to be evaluated: Cape Coral, Fort Lauderale, Hialeah, Hollywood, Jacksonville, Miami, Miami Shores, Oakland Park, Orlando, Pembroke Pines, Port Saint Lucie, St. Petersburg, Tallahassee, Tampa and Wilton Manors.

Scores for these cities cover a wide range from zero points in Port Saint Lucie to 89 points in Tampa. The cities of Tampa and Tallahassee (with 84 points) stood out for their high equality scores despite no such statewide laws.

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Nine out of Florida’s 15 cities exceed the national average: Fort Lauderdale at 77, Hialeah at 58, Miami at 67, Oakland Park at 85, Orlando at 79, St. Petersburg at 66, Tallahassee at 84, Tampa at 89, and Wilton Manners at 82.

Just beneath the national average sit Miami Shores at 56 and Hollywood at 54. Pembroke Pines was rated at 43 points, Jacksonville at 25, Cape Coral at 10, and again, Port Saint Lucie at 0.

Cape Coral, Jacksonville and Port Saint Lucie were the only Florida cities evaluated without a perfect score on relationship recognition.

The report further explores how local equality laws may matter for all people, not just those who are directly impacted.

“Beyond the important issues of fairness and equality lies an additional reason for cities to take matters of equality seriously: it is good for business,” the report states. “Cities are in constant competition for residents, business and employees: inclusiveness is an important factor that attracts all three.”

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