October 11, 2018 at 10:18 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Rockville, Columbia, Arlington top D.C. area in Municipal Equality ratings
Municipal Equality Index, gay news, Washington Blade

Columbia, Md. received a perfect score on the MEI. (Photo courtesy Downtown Columbia)

The cities of Rockville, Md. and Columbia, Md., received perfect scores of 100 and Arlington County, Va. received a score of 92, making them the highest scoring municipalities in the D.C. metropolitan area included in the just released 2018 LGBT Municipal Equality Index ratings.

The annual ratings are prepared jointly by the national LGBT rights groups Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute. The two groups say the MEI represents the only nationwide rating system for LGBT supportive laws, policies, and services provided by municipalities such as cities and counties.

D.C. is not included in the MEI ratings because the two groups classify D.C. as a state and include it in their separate State Equality Index. The State Equality Index doesn’t assign a numerical rating but shows D.C. to be among the states with the most LGBT supportive laws, policies and services.

In a joint statement released on Monday, the HRC Foundation and the Equality Federation Institute said the 2018 MEI includes additional and more stringent criteria than past years in order for a municipality to receive a high score. Among the newer criteria was inclusion of “single-user” facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms in public places to accommodate transgender people and policies or laws banning so-called conversion therapy for minors.

Other new criteria include assurances that the municipality did not pass laws “licensing discrimination against the LGBTQ community” such as so-called religious freedom laws that allow businesses to refuse to sell services or products to LGBT people on religious grounds.

“But even with these more stringent MEI requirements, cities and municipalities are meeting and exceeding our standards with innovative measures to protect LGBTQ people,” a statement released by the two groups says. “A record 78 cities earned perfect scores for advancing LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies – up from 68 in 2017 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI,” the statement says.

In Maryland, other cities selected for MEI ratings and their respective scores were: Frederick: 100; Towson: 91; Baltimore: 89; College Park: 86; Gaithersburg: 59; Annapolis: 59; Bowie: 58; and Hagerstown: 38.

In Virginia, other cities included in the ratings and their scores were: Richmond: 94; Alexandria: 82; Charlottesville: 75; Virginia Beach: 50; and Norfolk: 43.

In Delaware, the longtime LGBT-friendly city of Rehoboth Beach received a rating of 58 compared to Wilmington, which received an 87 rating, the highest score among the Delaware municipalities included in the MEI. The other Delaware cities included in the rating system were: Milford: 60; Newark: 56; Dover: 54; Smyrna: 43; Bethany Beach: 37; and Middletown: 30.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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