Several Kansas, Missouri cities receive perfect Municipal Equality Index scores
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - With gender-affirming care and other LGBTQ+ issues on the minds of many lawmakers and citizens, a new report has been released showing how select U.S. cities are showing up for their LGBTQ+ constituents.
The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a “national benchmarking tool” created by the Human Rights Campaign and the Equality Federation Institute. It measures how well cities across the country provide laws, policies and public services that are geared towards LGBTQ+ inclusion.
In Kansas, both Lawrence and Overland Park were awarded perfect 100/100 scores for 2023. This is Lawrence’s second year in a row to receive the distinction.
“This achievement is not just a milestone,” said Farris Muhammad, Director of Equity for the City of Lawrence. “It is a reflection of our shared commitment to creating a workplace where every individual feels valued, respected, and included.”
On the Missouri side, Kansas City, St. Louis and Columbia all received scores of 100.
How the index scores were determined
In 2023, a total of 506 cities were analyzed. Only 129 received perfect scores of 100 while the average score was 71. According to MEI, this is the “sixth consecutive year that the average city score has risen, with a record-breaking number of 100-point cities.”
The methodology for selecting which cities to rank included using each of the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the county and the five largest cities in each state. Attention was paid to city sizing (small, medium, or large) and the proportion of same-sex to opposite-sex couples in each of the cities.
Scoring was broken into five main categories, with more specific criteria included in each. The five categories are:
- Non-discrimination laws
- Municipality as employer
- Municipal services
- Law enforcement
- Leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.
The scoring attempted to take as many factors into consideration as possible, recognizing that no two cities can be compared apples-to-apples. The size of a city, for example, can impact its ability to implement widespread changes. A small city may not have as much power as a large “metropolitan giant,” as the report states.
Varying state laws can also enhance or impede the progress that a municipality is able to make.
The full criteria for city selection and scoring are explained in the final report.
2023 Kansas and Missouri Scores
The breakdown of each city’s score is available by clicking on the included link.
- Lawrence- 100
- Overland Park- 100
- Wichita- 98
- Topeka- 97
- Manhattan- 82
- Olathe- 69
- Emporia- 69
- Kansas City, Kansas- 63
- Hutchinson- 61
- Columbia- 100
- Kansas City, Missouri- 100
- St. Louis- 100
- St. Charles- 72
- Springfield- 61
- Jefferson City- 51
- Independence- 17
- Cape Girardeau- 12
What do the scores mean?
Scores indicate “the ways that many cities can — and do — support the LGBTQ+ people who live and work there, even where states and the federal government have failed to do so.”
The laws and policies taken into consideration include the availability of gender-affirming healthcare to both transgender children and adults, the discussion of LGBTQ+ topics in schools, whether businesses can turn away LGBTQ+ customers, and whether conversion therapies are permitted. This is not an exhaustive list, but the focal points of the report are the tangible laws and practices that cities do or don’t implement.
This means that scores are not indicative of culture, since that cannot be defined by the presence of laws and policies. MEI acknowledges this, stating that “...many cities obtaining 100 scores on the MEI can’t promise 100 score experiences for its residents, especially in places where state legislatures have made the state unsafe and unlivable for so many.”
MEI is not the only organization paying attention to the importance of inclusion, whether or not that inclusion is municipal or in regard to the LGBTQ+ community.
In 2021, Fortune 500 stated that “more and more companies and CEOs are learning that a strong business is one that includes people with disabilities as well as diversity in race, gender, and cultural backgrounds...” MEI emphasizes that inclusivity is a “key element in the formula that leads to economic growth.”
Until full nationwide equality is realized, cities must continue to lead the way on vital protections for LGBTQ+ residents, visitors, and workers. In doing so, city leaders will help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all residents while encouraging real economic growth that benefits everyone.
The full 2023 MEI report can be found here.
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