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Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ+ scorecard

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Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ+ scorecard

Dec 01, 2023 | 1:03 pm ET
By Jon King
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Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ scorecard
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Attendees at Motor City Pride on June 10, 2023. More than 50,000 people attend the festival every year. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

More than one-third of the Michigan cities ranked in a national survey of LGBTQ+ rights, including Detroit, received perfect scores.

The 12th annual Municipal Equality Index, released Nov. 14 by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, in partnership with the Equality Federation, ranked 506 cities across the nation based on criteria in five areas; non-discrimination laws, municipality as employer, services and programs, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

Four of the 11 Michigan cities included in the survey — Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale and Grand Rapids — earned perfect scores of 100. 

Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ scorecard
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in Detroit, March 9, 2020 | Andrew Roth

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan trumpeted the top ranking as a reflection that the city welcomes and values everyone.

“Being a welcoming city that protects and supports its LGBTQ+ community is something we work at every day, and we are very proud to have achieved this perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign,” he said in a press release that pointed out that while the city had received a top ranking for the eighth straight year, it was still a signature achievement.

“Detroit’s 100 score this year is notable, however, because it is the first time the city achieved the maximum score based solely on the MEI’s base point system,” stated the release. “In past years, the City achieved its 100 points through a combination of base score points, which reflect fundamental policies and practices that support members of the LGBTQ+ community, along with added ‘Flex’ points awarded for practices that go beyond these basic protections. This year the city earned all 100 possible base points, as well as 19 Flex points for offering services for LGBTQ+ Youth and for having openly LGBTQ+ appointed members of City government. A city’s final score, however, cannot exceed 100.”

Sterling Heights, meanwhile, scored a near-perfect 99, with East Lansing close behind at 98. Lansing received an 89, while Kalamazoo and Traverse City each scored 86. The lowest-scoring Michigan cities were Oakland County’s Pleasant Ridge at 64 and Macomb County’s Warren at the bottom with 59. 

The average score for cities in Michigan is 89 out of 100 points, well above the national average of 71.

The MEI includes all 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities (including undergraduate and graduate enrollment), 75 cities and municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state groups members and supporters.

Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott told the Michigan Advance that the state’s performance reflects the determination to advance civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Equality Michigan wants to recognize and congratulate our Michigan cities who have scored a 100 this year, but beyond that, for the many more cities in our state who still work diligently toward that same goal,” she said. “In the face of adversity and divisive outside forces, the elected officials and civil service members in Michigan who prioritize equality, fairness, and progress, are a terrific reflection of our state’s grit and resilience. 

Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ scorecard
Human Rights Campaign graphic

Knott also noted significant pro-LGBTQ+ measures at the state level.

“These local leaders, in combination with the equality-champions in our state legislature, are making an invaluable contribution to the future of Michigan and all of its residents,” Knott said. “Major steps forward were made this year at the state level, with the expansion of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA) to protect against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation, while a ban on conversion therapy for minors was also signed into law. While both of those achievements were made possible by Democratic majorities in both the state House and Senate, more work remains to be completed.

A bill to expand the state’s definition of hate crimes to make it easier to prosecute individuals who target others for their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability was introduced in April by state Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield). While it passed the Michigan House in June, it remains in the Senate Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

Despite that, the MEI indicates that progress is being made nationally, as well as in Michigan, with a record breaking 129 cities earning the highest score of 100. That represents more than 25% of the 506 cities and towns in the survey and up from 120 last year. 

Human Rights Campaign Foundation President Kelley Robinson said while the MEI indicates overall progress, there are still efforts across the country underway to roll back those gains.

Michigan cities rank above national average on annual LGBTQ scorecard
Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson attends the Senate’s Civil Rights, Judiciary and Public Safety Committee hearing on a bill that would expand the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act on Feb. 9, 2023. | Photo by Anna Gustafson

“This year’s MEI report serves as a stark reminder that our work at the grassroots level, as a collective movement, remains unfinished,” she said. “For the first time in the history of the MEI, fewer cities are providing transgender-inclusive health benefits to municipal employees. While the number of cities offering such benefits has increased — 215 cities now provide packages inclusive of transgender health care — state legislation has substantially affected their enforceability and accessibility.”

Robinson said that approximately 20% of cities that offer trans-inclusive benefits are unable to extend the same provisions to dependent minors, while only 173 cities can presently offer comprehensive health benefits, including coverage for gender-affirming care, to their municipal employees.

“We cannot ignore the political attacks targeting transgender and non-binary people. These attacks exacerbate anti-trans stigma and further endanger our community, especially BIPOC trans and non-binary people who must also contend with racism in our society. This perilous combination of harmful legislation and hateful online rhetoric has tangible, often fatal consequences for our community,” she said.