November 14, 2023

Virginia Beach Receives Perfect Municipal Equality Index Score for Fourth Consecutive Year

Virginia Beach has again been recognized as one of the best municipalities across the United States for lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer and/or questioning, plus other sexual and gender minorities (LGBTQ+) equality according to national civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign.

The annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a nationwide benchmarking tool developed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for understanding how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work in a given community.

The organization reviews the policies, laws and services of 506 municipalities across the nation and considers 100 to be a perfect score, however municipalities are able to receive flex points allowing for potential raw score of up to 122.

The HRC scored 11 cities in Virginia, five of which are in Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach’s 2023 raw score was once again the highest in the state at 117. This marks the third consecutive year that Virginia Beach has earned a raw score above 100. Nationwide, 129 cities scored a 100 or better and the average score was 71.

In the first year of the MEI (2011), Virginia Beach scored only a 17. After the City received a score of 50 on the index in 2018, City leadership appointed an LGBTQ+ liaison to the city manager to review City policies and services, organize training and implement strategies to ensure inclusivity for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Since then, the City has continuously worked to create or change policies and ordinances designed to increase the visibility of services for LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as develop programs to engage and support the community. These efforts have proven to be successful – Virginia Beach’s score in 2019 improved to a 77 and the City earned a perfect score for the first time in 2020 and has maintained it ever since.

“The City of Virginia Beach is honored to receive our highest score yet of 117 on the Municipal Equality Index as a result of our commitment to making our city a welcoming environment, not just for the LGBTQIA community, but for everyone,” said Anna Elias Perez, LGBTQ+ liaison to the city manager. “In 2024, we are dedicated to maintaining our perfect score and to providing new opportunities for community connections, programs and learning opportunities for our residents, visitors and workforce.”

The MEI serves as a guide to help local governments further equality, but also as a resource for companies looking to expand into areas that are actively fostering inclusion. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and city leadership's public position on equality.

The 506 cities rated as a part of the MEI include 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 HRC 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.

To review the full report and each individual city's score, visit Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index.

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