Virginia Beach improved its Municipal Equality Index (MEI) score, jumping from 50 in 2018 to 77 (out of a high score of 100), earning the highest score among Hampton Roads cities evaluated. City leaders were able to raise their score well above the national average of 60 through a variety of methods, specifically earning more points in 11 of 25 categories measured, including the following:
- Enacting a youth anti-bullying policy;
- Services offered to LGBT homeless;
- Services available to people living with HIV/AIDS;
- Leadership’s pro-equality stance;
- Having an openly gay elected official;
- Services offered to LGBT Youth;
- Having an LGBTQ liaison to the city manager;
- Having an inclusive workplace (received for the Gay Straight Alliance as well as inclusion and diversity classes);
- Antidiscrimination in City contracts for housing;
- Transgender-inclusive health benefits;
- Offering all-gender, single-occupancy restrooms;
“This improved score is a reflection of the policy advancements we’ve made as a city,” said Mayor Robert M. “Bobby” Dyer. “We are committed to ensuring that our LGBTQ residents and visitors always feel this is a welcoming and inclusive place.”
“We’re very proud that we’ve been able to make the work we’ve been doing more visible,” said Neva White, Virginia Beach’s LGBTQ liaison to the city manager. “Having programs and services for any demographic isn’t enough. We have to make sure those programs and services are showcased and marketed to the diverse populations we serve.”
The MEI rated 506 cities including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, 75 municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.
If you are interested in reading the entire MEI report published by the Human Rights Campaign, click HERE.