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Jefferson City scores zero on LGBT equality survey

Jefferson City scores zero on LGBT equality survey

October 22nd, 2017 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

Transgender women Cathy Serino, left, and Michelle Daytona speak before a crowd during the Second Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance in Jefferson City outside the Capitol Building on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. A gathering of friends, family, and advocates came together to remember and bring awareness about the transgender lives murdered around the globe.

Photo by Matt McCormack /News Tribune.

In the six years since the Human Rights Campaign began issuing a survey on how well cities across the country provide protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Missouri's Capital City has had very low scores.

That didn't change in the 2017 survey.

Jefferson City was among 10 other cities in the country to receive the lowest score possible — 0 — on the "Municipality Equality Index." The ranking of more than 500 cities was compiled in part by the HRC, which advocates and lobbies on behalf of the LGBT community.

The index based its scores on several categories including: non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipality employment policies, inclusiveness in city services, law enforcement and municipal leadership on matters of equality.

Jefferson City received the lowest score possible in all categories.

"When you look at the metrics versus reality, in reality, we are a very supportive and inclusive community," Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin said. "I believe we can always improve, and I also believe we need to be more proactive in reporting what we are doing to be inclusive."

Tergin said last week the city announced they were making efforts to revive the local Human Relations Commission.

"The city has had it in place for several years, but it hasn't had community support," she said. "Last week, 'We said we are asking for volunteers for that committee, and we feel the community will step up.' Although it's been around, it has been felt that other community groups have been filling many of the (roles) that this committee would normally take on, but based on input we've been getting recently, we felt there is a desire to get a commission working again."

Tergin believes the city has no ordinances to protect LGBT rights because residents "tend to have no issues here."

She added she would support the concept of a possible future ordinance to prevent anti-LGBT business owners from firing workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and she recently wrote an award recommendation for an LGBT-owned business in the Capital City.

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Richard Florida, a global research professor at New York University, wrote in the report that inclusiveness attracts residents, businesses and employees.

"A growing body of research has shown that cities that have vibrant gay and lesbian communities have higher levels of income, life satisfaction, housing values, and emotional attachment to their community as well as higher concentrations of high-tech business," Florida wrote.

Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia all received perfect scores on the index.

"The City of Columbia has been a leader in the state" by passing laws to protect those classes, the report said. Columbia was chosen as a "success story" for its legislation despite a lack of statewide protections for the LGBT community.

Missouri is one of several states that does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

"In Jefferson City, we will not tolerate discrimination of any kind — period," Tergin said. "Jefferson City has been an inclusive community and we want to celebrate diversity. We are very fortunate to have businesses owned by openly LGBT citizens. We should support them, women, minorities — everyone. We can show that we definitely are higher than what this report says. As mayor, I'll work to make sure we report the initiatives we are doing because we want to accurately reflect who we really are."

The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available at hrc.org/mei.

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