Massachusetts made history as the first state to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004, and it’s still making itself known as a state that values LGBTQ equality, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The Human Rights Campaign released this week its seventh annual Municipal Equality Index, an evaluation of how inclusive an area’s laws, policies and services are to LGBTQ residents.
The 2018 report looks at 509 cities across the country, rating them on criteria like nondiscrimination protections, city services and what sort of relationship city officials have with the LGBTQ community. Cities were given on a score between 0 and 100, with 100 signifying the most LGBTQ-friendly cities.
Ten Massachusetts cities were evaluated for the Human Rights Campaign index: Amherst, Arlington, Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Northampton, Provincetown, Salem Springfield and Worcester. Together these cities averaged 88 points — higher than the national average of 58.
Six Massachusetts cities received perfect scores from the Human Rights Campaign: Boston, Cambridge, Northampton, Provincetown, Salem and Worcester. Arlington was close behind with 98, and out of the 10 Massachusetts cities, Lowell was deemed the least friendly to the LGBTQ community, with a Human Rights Campaign rating of 48.
Why LGBTQ equality is important in Massachusetts and beyond
“In this political moment, as we face unprecedented challenges to fairness, justice, and democracy at the federal level, we look to local leadership to advance equality for the LGBTQ community,” said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation Institute, in a statement. “Equality Federation is committed to our partnership with HRC on the Municipal Equality Index because it sets a bar that most localities want to reach.”
Since the Municipal Equality Index began in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has “increased by more than sevenfold,” according to the Human Rights Campaign, and today at least 25 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.
LGBTQ equality and Massachusetts Ballot Question 3
But at the same that Massachusetts is being praised for its LGBTQ-friendly policies, a battle is unfolding across the state that could threaten one. Question 3 on the November ballot will ask residents if they want to keep the Transgender Anti-Discrimination Law on the books.
Still, despite that effort by some to repeal transgender protections, Massachusetts stands out as an LGBTQ friendly state, said Kasey Suffredini, president of strategy at Freedom for All Americans and campaign co-chair of Yes on 3.
“Cities and mayors across Massachusetts have been at the forefront of treating their residents with full dignity and respect for a long time, including people who are transgender,” he said. “That's why places like Boston have had transgender protections from discrimination in place for over a decade, and places from Cambridge to Easthampton have endorsed the Yes on 3 campaign.”
The state’s track record with LGBTQ policies (and its positive Human Rights Campaign rating) won’t really be threatened by this effort to repeal transgender protections, thanks to local leadership.
“We are confident that [Massachusetts] will again make history as the first state to uphold transgender nondiscrimination protections,” Suffredini said, “but we could not do it without the support of our state's leaders who know that treating everyone fairly is the right thing to do.”