In a press release yesterday, Richmond Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond once again received the highest Municipal Equality Index score in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Out of the 11 municipalities the Human Rights Campaign scored in Virginia, Richmond scored the highest, earning a 97 out of a possible 100 points.
“My mission is to build a city where everyone, no matter their skin color, country of origin, how they worship or who they love, is free to live out their God-given potential,” said Mayor Stoney. “Supporting the members of Richmond’s LGBTQ community is imperative to that task, and this score shows that inclusivity is one of our top priorities.”
Each year the Human Rights Campaign rates cities across the United States based on their initiatives to support LGBTQ communities. The findings are compiled on the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) scorecard, where cities are given points for inclusive programs and policies, such as non-discrimination laws, transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees, inclusive workplaces and LGBTQ liaisons in the city’s executive office, to name a few.
The city’s performance on the MEI scorecard has vastly improved in the past two years. In 2017, Richmond received a 42 out of 100. The city was able to increase its score by 52 points in a year, scoring a 94 in 2018. In that year, the city improved its score through working with City Council to establish a Human Rights Commission and pass non-discrimination laws, designating a policy advisor to serve as the Mayor’s LGBTQ liaison and offering transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees.
Richmond’s success story is highlighted twice in the 2019 MEI report, demonstrating how the scorecard serves as a crucial policy guide and advocacy tool. Richmond’s 2019 MEI score is 97 because of Mayor Stoney’s efforts to advocate at the state level for non-discrimination laws and against the use of conversion therapy. Earlier this year, Mayor Stoney introduced, and Richmond City Council approved, a resolution supporting the prohibition of conversion therapy in the city and across the Commonwealth of Virginia. The mayor is hopeful that the new Democrat-controlled General Assembly will address both of these issues during its 2020 session.
“Richmond’s pro-equality leaders continue to send a strong message across Virginia about the importance of ensuring our gay and transgender neighbors can live, work and play free from discrimination,” said James Parrish, Executive Director of Equality Virginia. “We celebrate Mayor Stoney and the Richmond City Council for their work to make the city a more inclusive and welcoming place.”
“Mayor Stoney has been committed to making Richmond safer and more welcoming for our community,” said Adam Trimmer, Virginia Ambassador for Born Perfect, a campaign to end conversion therapy. “I could not be prouder of Richmond.”
“The increase in Richmond’s MEI score is a testament to Mayor Stoney’s steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusivity,” said James Millner, President of Virginia Pride. “Once again, we have the highest score of any municipality in Virginia, which sends a powerful message to businesses, tourists and residents: LGBTQ people aren’t just welcome in Richmond, but we are embraced and recognized as a vital, positive force in this city. This is something of which every Richmonder can be proud.”
Local organizations have also played a key role in advocating for the policies that increased Richmond’s MEI scorecard value.
“As a native Richmonder who identifies as transgender, I am pleased to see the city’s MEI score increase,” said Zakia McKensey, Executive Director of Nationz Foundation. “It is important to my community that the city be more diverse, inclusive and affirming of the LGBTQIA+ communities. Thank you, Mayor Stoney and the city, for your work to make Richmond more inclusive!”
“This standing reinforces Richmond’s identity as a welcoming destination for all,” said Jack Berry, President and CEO, Richmond Region Tourism. “Congratulations on making our city compassionate and safe for all.”
Many Fortune 500 companies rely on the Human Rights Campaign report as a guide for relocation and expansion, as inclusion of all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, reflects a municipality’s shared values.
Mayor Stoney said that the high score does not mean the work will stop.
“For the second year in a row, we’re leading the way for all municipalities in Virginia,” the mayor said. I’m proud of this achievement and excited to see how else we can ensure Richmond’s city policies, services and code reflect the inclusive community we are.”