Eighteen cities in Florida made the cut this year to be included in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index, which measures how LGBT friendly a city is. But some activists feel the annual report has consistently snubbed two of the state’s most LGBT friendly cities – West Palm Beach and Miami Beach.
“It would be wonderful if HRC would include West Palm Beach in the MEI. The City has been in the forefront of LGBT rights since 1992, when it became the first Florida municipality to offer domestic partner Benefits,” said Rand Hoch, President of the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council. “Just last year WPB became the second Florida municipality to prohibit conversion therapy. In between numerous LGBT-inclusive ordinances and policies have been put into place in WPB and in a 1995 referendum to repeal a gay rights law, we defeated the repeal effort with 57 percent of the vote!”
Even though neither city was included in HRC’s report both cities self-submitted and received a perfect score of 100.
“HRC and the Equality Federation selects 98 municipalities, which do not otherwise meet the criteria for inclusion in the MEI, yet despite repeated requests over the years by WPB, HRC still refuses to include West Palm Beach,” Hoch said. “Hopefully, that will change in 2018, but I'm not banking on it. It would be great for HRC to be transparent about how those 98 are chosen, but…”
SFGN reached out to HRC for clarification on how they choose those other 98 cities.
“The 2017 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) rates the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, 75 cities & municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples, and 98 cities selected last year by HRC and Equality Federation state groups members and supporters through online voting,” said Xavier Persad, HRC Legislative Counsel and author of the MEI. “Significant overlap between these selection criteria lead to a total of 506 cities rated. Additionally, cities that do not fall within our general selection criteria can submit themselves to be rated by the MEI.”
Rob Rosenwald, First Assistant City Attorney for Miami Beach, also expressed dismay at his city being left out of the report.
“Miami Beach leads the state and the nation in protecting LGBT rights. From arguing in court for marriage equality to banning conversion, our City sets the standard that other cities aspire to reach. And when gay folks consider where to live or vacation, Miami Beach is always on any short list. We have self-submitted every year for the past four years and consistently scored highest in the nation, receiving perfect scores every single year,” he said. “Not ranking us in the same way all the other cities get scored doesn't make any sense. But we will continue to lead the fight no matter what because that's ultimately what counts."
Of the 18 official cities included in the report only 4 received perfect scores including Orlando; St. Petersburg; Tallahassee and Wilton Manors. The cities with the lowest scores include Hialeah (49), Cape Coral (39), Port St. Lucie (31); and Daytona Beach (30).