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Jefferson City's score on a survey about protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community didn't change from the previous year.

For one city leader, the score means the city is consistent.

The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group, releases the Municipal Equality Index (MEI) annually and looks into the laws and policies in various cities around the country.

Five years ago, the city scored a 0 on the index — the lowest score possible — because it had not filled out the survey.

The next year, 2018, the city did fill out the survey and scored a 20 out of 100. Since then, the city's score has slowly improved from year to year. It was 31 in 2019 and 57 in 2020 and 2021.

"I'm glad we're continuing to maintain the level of doing what we're doing," Mayor Carrie Tergin said. "And it's always a reminder that there are more things that we certainly could do."

Jefferson City is the fifth highest ranked city in Missouri out of the eight that took the survey. Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City received perfect scores.

St. Charles earned a 60, Jefferson City earned a 57, Springfield earned a 53, Independence earned a 25 and Cape Girardeau earned a 12.

Scorecards are divided into five categories: non-discrimination laws, municipality as employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality. Each area is scored on certain criteria and given a total amount of points, which vary and total 100, creating the final score.

Each category also offers possibilities of flex points, for criteria not accessible to all cities at this time, but final scores cannot exceed 100.

Jefferson City did not receive flex points from any category.

The first category — non-discrimination laws — looks at protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity when looking for employment, housing and public accommodations.

Neither Missouri, Cole County or Jefferson City have non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity. The city received zero out of a potential 30 points for the category.

However, under the second category — the municipality as an employer — the city received 22 points out of a potential 28.

Under this, the city gets points for non- discrimination policies for employees, offering transgender-inclusive health care benefits and being an inclusive workplace.

The missing points are due to the absence of an ordinance requiring city contractors to have the a non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the municipal services category, the city received 10 out of a possible 12 points.

The existence of the city's Human Relations Commission, which focuses on promoting equality within the community through educational programs, gives Jefferson City points.

The city also has an LGBTQ liaison, Human Resources Director Gail Strope.

Jefferson City lost points in this category because the Human Relations Commission is not involved in enforcement of the non-discrimination ordinances.

The one category the city received full points in is law enforcement, which is worth 22 points.

They come from the police department having an LGBTQ liaison — Public Information Officer Lt. David Williams — and for reporting 2019 hate crime statistics for the FBI.

In the last category, leadership on LGBTQ equality, the city received three out of the potential eight points.

The category looks at two criteria: leadership's public position on LGBTQ equality which received one out of five points and leadership's pro-equality legislative or policy efforts which received a two out of three.

In August, Mitchell Woodrum — who was elected to be president of the Human Relations Commission for 2022 — said he wants to put an emphasis on improving the city's score.

"It's not just about increasing our score though," he said in August. "We want to hit something that matters, not the low-hanging fruit; something that will give momentum."

Strope, who also advises the Human Relations Commission, agreed with Tergin on the results.

"I think it shows that Jefferson City as a municipality is very open to the LGBTQ community," she said. "There five sections, and we score very well on four of them. The one section that we have not scored as well in is the non-discrimination laws, which would be the citywide laws in employment and in housing and in public accommodations. But as an employer and in services that we offer, we do very well."

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