Atlanta is among 25 cities nationwide to earn a perfect score in a report ranking lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality measures.
The Municipal Equality Index — a report generated by the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization that promotes LGBT equality — rated policies in 291 cities. Criteria included non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment and contracting policies, law enforcement measures and leadership.
Atlanta was the only city in Georgia to receive 100 points, up from 82 in 2012.
In the past year, Mayor Kasim Reed expressed support for marriage equality and appointed an adviser, Robin Shahar, for LGBT issues. Meanwhile, the Atlanta City Council passed legislation to include gender identity as a protected class.
The average score for cities in Georgia is 39, according to the report, including Avondale Estates earning 56 points and Augusta-Richmond scoring 12.
“I think it’s really remarkable that Atlanta is going to be the first city in the Deep South to score 100 points,” said Cathryn Oakley, legislative counsel for state and municipal advocacy at the Human Rights Campaign. “It may be a long time before the state of Georgia has marriage equality and statewide non-discrimination laws … but in the meantime it’s really important to have cities creating those protections.”
Reed was traveling with Vice President Joe Biden in Panama on Tuesday, but in a statement he said he has long supported LGBT equality. Reed noted that as a state representative, he sponsored Georgia’s first hate crime bill aimed at protecting LGBT individuals and opposed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Standing with District 6 Councilman Alex Wan, who is openly gay, Reed signed a resolution in support of marriage equality last December. And Reed is co-chair of the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry campaign.
“As mayor, I will continue my efforts to achieve equal protection and equal treatment of Atlanta’s LGBT residents, workers and visitors,” he said in the statement.
Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham applauded Atlanta and Avondale Estates, both of which saw scores improve this year, but said more work remains to be done on the state level.
“Our goal is and has been that if we can really make the case that a lot of municipalities in Georgia are adopting these policies, it makes it easier for us to turn to the state of Georgia and say, ‘Why aren’t you doing the same?’”
Reed, Wan, Graham and officials from the Human Rights Campaign are expected to discuss the report at a Wednesday press conference, scheduled for 3 p.m. at Atlanta City Hall.
The full Municipal Equality Index report is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.
Avondale Estates: 56
North Druid Hills: 15
Source: Municipal Equality Index