The Human Rights Campaign unveiled yesterday its Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which rates the public policies and legal rights of LGBT citizens in 137 U.S. cities -- and it turns out that, in terms of LGBT legislation, St. Louis is one of the most progressive cities in the country.
Yes, it's true! St. Louis was one of only eleven cities to score a perfect 100. We're right up there with New York, Seattle and -- oh, Lord, can it be? -- San Francisco! Astonishingly, we even scored better than Provincetown and Northampton, Massachusetts, both known for large LGBT populations. And Massachusetts has same-sex marriage. What's going on here?
The study, it turns out, is all about law, not culture. And the rating rubric allows for differences between civic and state law. So while Missouri doesn't recognize same-sex marriage or even civil unions or domestic partnerships, the MEI can still give St. Louis credit for having a domestic partner registry. (And, in fact, we tied with Philly for highest ranking city in a state without positive LGBT state laws.)
The MEI looks at six separate areas: nondiscrimination laws, relationship recognition, the municipality's employment policies, municipal services and programs, how well the municipal law enforcement responds to LGBT issues and the municipality's relationship with the LGBT community.
St. Louis received perfect scores in almost all these areas: we fell down only in benefits for city contractors and legal dependents. We made up for it, though, with bonus points for the city's excellent relationship with the LGBT community and for having openly LGBT members of the city government.
The entire study is available online and definitely worth a look, if only to see how much municipal LGBT policies vary, even in the same state. Jeff City, for instance, scored a perfect 0.