Four cities in South Florida received perfect scores in the 2020 Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index report including Wilton Manors, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Miami Beach.
"People are waking up to the reality of glaring, systemic inequalities, and tools like the Municipal Equality Index help them move from being overwhelmed to understanding where progress can be made,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “Florida has been the vanguard of the South in adopting proactive local policies. The MEI shows us that even with those tremendous advances, we must continue to hold our local officials accountable to advancing pro-equality policies that reflect our values."
This is the ninth annual municipal equality list HRC has compiled. Across the U.S. 94 cities earned perfect scores this year — up from 88 last year.
Wilton Manors, known as Broward County’s “gayborhood,” is one of those cities that came out on top — their seventh time in a row doing so.
Wilton Manors City Commissioner Paul Rolli said other cities have reached out to them over the years to ask how they continue to earn perfect scores.
“It’s simple — we create and implement policies and practices that promote equity and a safe environment for all who live in, work in, and visit Wilton Manors,” Rolli said. “I am so thankful that the Human Rights Campaign continues to recognize our leadership.”
Chris Caputo, who was elected to the city commission just last month, added his thoughts as well.
“Residents and business owners in the City of Wilton Manors should be proud. Our city's laws and policies demonstrate our appreciation for diversity, including our support for transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and our city contractor non-discrimination ordinance,” he said. “We deserve the international reputation we've received for being a great place for LGBTQ+ individuals and families to call home.”
Fort Lauderdale tops the list for the second year in a row.
“Once again, Fort Lauderdale demonstrates how far we have come over the decades in becoming the diverse and inclusive city we are today,” said City Commissioner Steve Glassman. “We should all be very proud of our progress.”
Two years ago Fort Lauderdale enacted a human rights ordinance that banned discrimination against the LGBT community in the area’s employment, housing, and public accommodation.
Overall seven cities in Florida received perfect scores. The others include Orlando, St. Petersburg, and Tampa.
A few other cities came close to perfect though like Tallahassee and Oakland Park, both of which received a 99.
“While we are quite proud of the rise in the score to a 99, we will continue to find every way possible to receive a perfect score of 100 by next year,” said Matthew Sparks, city commissioner of Oakland Park.
Oakland Park received a 97 last year.
All of the ranked cities in South Florida either improved their scores over last year, or their scores stayed the same.
The city with the biggest increase over 2019 was Miami, which saw its score jump 20 points from 55 to 75. According to the scorecard two areas where they improved included adding LGBT liaisons in the city executive’s office and within the police department. The city with the lowest score in South Florida is Hialeah with 40 points, while the lowest in the state is Daytona Beach with 30 points.
Digging deeper into the report shows that even among the four cities that did achieve a perfect score in South Florida there are areas for improvement, according to their scorecards. Beyond the 100 points, there are an additional 22 “flex” points that work like bonuses. So for instance cities that provide services to the transgender community receive two flex points. Only Wilton Manors earned that bonus. However Wilton Manors did not receive any flex points for providing services to LGBT people experiencing homelessness.
Many cities did in fact receive more than 100 points but the scorecards note the score cannot exceed 100. For instance Wilton Manors received 94 regular points and 18 flex points; whereas West Palm Beach received 100 regular points and six flex points.
Not every city in the state is ranked. Instead cities that are included have to meet certain criteria such as being a state capital or one of the 200 largest cities in the U.S. More than 500 cities across the country were ranked this year. Cities receive points based on their LGBT-friendly laws, policies, benefits and services. Twenty-four cities in Florida were included.
If a city does not meet the criteria to be included it can “self-submit,” which Miami Beach does each year.
“The City of Miami Beach has received a perfect score since 2013, prior to gay marriage being legalized, when I sponsored the Domestic Partner Ordinance that allowed unmarried couples to receive the same value of benefits as married couples from the city,” said Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Góngora. “The MEI is a quantifiable index of our city’s commitment to LGBTQ rights. We work hard every year to get every possible point and our 100% score [...] shows that Miami Beach remains the best place for our community to live, work, and play.”
West Palm Beach is another self-submitter.
"For more than 30 years, PBCHRC has encouraged elected officials in West Palm Beach to enact laws and policies to provide equal rights, protections, and benefits for LGBTQ residents and visitors,” said Rand Hoch, president of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “This year's perfect score on the MEI acknowledges their efforts to make our city a great place for LGBTQ people to live, study, work, play, create families, and retire."