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St. Louis wins national praise for LGBTQ inclusion, equality

ST. LOUIS – LGBTQ inclusion and equality are AOK in the STL.

That’s according to a report released recently by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization. 

In fact, St. Louis, along with Columbia and Kansas City, Mo., are leaders in ensuring equal treatment for LGBTQ people.

That’s despite zero LGBTQ-inclusive statewide non-discrimination laws. 

Jordan Braxton, director of diversity and inclusion at Pride St. Louis, responded to the news in an email to The NorthSider:

“We are pleased that St. Louis has once again obtained a perfect score on The Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index. … We are now challenged to maintain our perfect 100% recognition score, which I’m sure we can do given the amount of dedication we have in our citizens, civil servants and elected officials.”

In June 2006, an ordinance introduced  as BB 67 by Alderman Shane Cohn passed in the city of St. Louis. 

It was introduced to eliminate, reduce and remedy discrimination in housing, employment, education, services, public accommodations and real property transactions and uses. It also provides equal opportunity enforcement and brought the city into substantial compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act. 

Also here, the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department participates in the Safe Place Initiative. Launched in 2017, it offers LGBTQ people a safe location to call and report crimes and harassment against them until police arrive.  

The department also has a non-discriminatory hiring policy and welcomes people from all backgrounds. 

On Monday, World AIDS Day, Mayor Lyda Krewson signed the Paris Declaration, officially cementing St. Louis among the Fast Track Cities. This initiative is a global partnership among cities and municipalities committed to ending HIV/AIDS and achieving 90-90-90 treatment targets by 2030. That means that by 2020, 90 percent of people with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of people with diagnosed HIV will get sustained antiretroviral therapy; and 90 percent of those people will achieve suppression of the virus

Mayor Krewson tweeted that she was “honored” to sign the declaration. 

This year’s Human Rights Campaign report included two new goals for policymakers: Expanding access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (a pill taken daily that can help reduce the risk of infection); and offering inclusive paid leave to achieve a healthier, stronger workforce.

The HRC uses such information as St. Louis’ participation in the Paris Declaration to measure inclusion and equality with a Municipal Equality Index. It’s the only nationwide assessment of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy. 

This year, the MEI shows that Missouri continues to take the lead in supporting LGBTQ people and workers – even in the face of what they perceive as state and federal attacks on those populations. 

In the report, St. Louis, along with Columbia and Kansas City, are said to be “shining like beacons of hope.” 

The cities earned one of HRC’s 59 MEI “All Star” designations, for cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ equality without relying on state law. 

Across the nation, the 59 cities are setting standards of best-practice policies that also include health benefits for city employees and offering LGBTQ-inclusive city services, the HRC states. 

“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 Alphonso David, HRC president. 

Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation Institute (which worked with the HRC on the report) said that this report of LGBTQ equality at the local level couldn’t be more timely. Critical decisions are being made about our lives at the Supreme Court, in the federal administration and state and local legislative bodies. 

“If they listen to the millions of Americans represented in this report, the answer should be simple: We need protections for LGBTQ people now,” Isaacs said.

“We are proud to partner with HRC on the Municipal Equality Index,” she said. “It is a powerful tool for elected officials and community leaders to use as they advocate equality.” 

The full report is available at www.hrc.org/mei

Bill Beene

bill.beene@thenorthsider.com Bill Beene was born and raised in north St. Louis. He has been a journalist for 12 years. He enjoys cooking and roller skating. He lives in the historic Ville neighborhood.

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