LGBT equality index puts Champaign in middle of Illinois cities
CHAMPAIGN — The city scores roughly in the middle in Illinois when it comes to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in town, according to a new report from a national interest group.
Champaign scored 74 out of 100 points in a "municipal equality index" score reported by the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for gay rights. The city ranked third of the five in Illinois which HRC scored, but well above the national average of 57 points.
The group based its score on a number of aspects in six broad categories: non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city's relationship with the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign did not score Urbana, but officials east of Wright Street have long touted their human rights ordinance — which secures equal housing and employment opportunities and prevents discrimination toward an individual based on a number of categories, including gender, race, religion, political affiliation and sexual preference — as one of the first in the nation. It passed in 1975. Champaign followed with a similar ordinance in 1977.
Champaign scored a perfect 18 out of 18 points in nondiscrimination laws. It scored 12 out of 12 points in relationship recognition, meaning that city and state laws recognize gay couples in a relationship.
The city lost points for, among other things, not having an LGBT liaison in the mayor's office and for not having an LGBT police liaison or task force. The Human Rights Campaign also said city leaders have not undertaken pro-equality legislative or policy efforts.
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard said the score showed Champaign is "ahead of the curve" on LGBT rights issues. He has been supportive of gay marriage since before it was legalized in Illinois this month.
Gerard said he thinks Champaign's score should be even higher than it is — he thinks the Human Rights Campaign scorers may have overlooked some of the efforts the city has made.
"We didn't get credit for some of the things that we do kind of outside of the normal legislative stuff," Gerard said.
"I think we do a little better job than the score."
Jason Hood, the city's community relations specialist, said the city is proud of its efforts to be inclusive. He said the city has a strong non-discrimination ordinance, an effective equal opportunity in purchasing ordinance and "various policies and procedures that reflect our commitment to fairness, equity and access for all."
Gerard acknowledged that there might be ways to raise Champaign's score, though he did not specify exactly where the city might look to bolster inclusivity.
"There's always room for improvement with everything," Gerard said. "Life is just a constant challenge to better ourselves, but I think so far we've done a pretty reasonable job of being an inclusive community."
74 out of 100
Champaign scored in the middle of other Illinois municipalities in the Human Rights Campaign's "municipal equality index." For the 291 cities analyzed, the national average score was 57 out of a possible 100 points.
On the Web: The full report is available at http://www.hrc.org/MEI.