4 Michigan cities earn perfect scores for LGBTQ rights, 2 Macomb County cities rank near bottom

Michigan Pride | Angela Demas
Updated, 12:54 p.m. 11/20/19

Michigan cities fared well overall in a national survey of municipalities and LGBTQ rights released Tuesday.

Michigan cities’ scores on the LGBTQ Municipal Equality Index | Human Rights Campaign chart

Eleven Michigan cities were examined as part of the eighth annual Municipal Equality Index, released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute.

A total of 506 cities across the nation were included in the rankings based on 49 criteria covering citywide non-discrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement and the city’s leadership on LGBTQ equality.

Four Mitten State cities — Ann Arbor, Detroit, East Lansing and Ferndale — earned perfect scores of 100. The two lowest-scoring Michigan cities on the list are both in Macomb County, Sterling Heights with 8 and Warren with 14. Rounding out the list were Grand Rapids (92), Lansing (86), Traverse City (84), Kalamazoo (74) and Pleasant Ridge (55).

The average score for cities in Michigan is 74 out of 100 points, which falls above the national average of 60.

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Equality Michigan Executive Director Erin Knott said the index “serves as a roadmap of the progress made in cities across Michigan toward full equality, but also as a reminder of the work still ahead.” She added that Equality Michigan will “continue to work with city leaders in communities like Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City to create lasting, positive change for LGBTQ people.”

Although Michigan has yet to include LGBTQ people in the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, 22% of the state population has protections, according to the Bolder, Colo.-based Movement Advance Project. There are 46 cities that fully protect them from housing and employment discrimination. Another six municipalities provide partial protections for LGBTQs.*

As the Advance has reported, three Michigan cities ban gay conversion therapy, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and East Lansing. That represents only 1% of the state’s population, however.

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The Municipal Equality Index includes all 50 state capitals, the 200 largest U.S. cities, 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.

“This year’s Municipal Equality Index shows that across the country, city leaders are working tirelessly to ensure that their constituents can secure housing, make a living and participate in community life without being discriminated against because of who they are,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “And the people overwhelmingly agree with these leaders: support for non-discrimination protections to protect LGBTQ people topped 70%, which includes a majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents. These policies are not only the right thing to do, but they are also critical in driving economic success by attracting residents, visitors and businesses that place a high value on inclusivity.”

Since the index’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning the highest score has increased by more than eightfold. The groups report that 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state. Transgender-inclusive health care benefits are offered to employees of 164 municipalities this year — up from 147 in 2018, 111 in 2017 and just five in 2012.

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Officials said that much of the progress in LGBTQ rights is being made at the local level, in contrast to rollbacks from the President Trump administration.

“These inclusive and welcoming cities are standing up to the unrelenting attacks on the LGBTQ community by the Trump-Pence administration, and sending a clear message that the fair and equal treatment of our community, our families and our neighbors is a true American value,” said David.

In May, the Democratic-led U.S. House passed the federal Equality Act aimed at barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. However, the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate has shown no interest in taking it up.

* This story was updated with the correct data for municipal LGBTQ protections.

Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.