Virginia Beach Earns Perfect Score on Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index for Second Consecutive Year
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), and the second straight year that Virginia Beach has earned a raw score above 100.
Of the 506 municipalities throughout the country evaluated, 110 earned perfect scores (up from 94 in 2020 and just 88 in 2019). The average score nationwide was 67. At 115, Virginia Beach's raw score is up two points from last year, is one of the highest scores in the nation and the highest in Virginia.
The 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 there. 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. Scores are issued on a 0-100 scale. The HRC publishes a maximum score of 100, but also provides a raw score that can be higher due to bonus points.
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, Neva White was assigned to become the LGBTQ Liaison to the City Manager. Since then, White, along with a team of volunteers, have worked hard 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, such as Pride at the Beach. They've been successful – Virginia Beach's score in 2019 improved to a 77 and to 113 in 2020.
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.
"As a City, we've made huge strides since receiving our very first MEI score in 2011," White said. "When we embarked on our effort in 2018, the goal was to demonstrate through tangible policies and services that we welcome all who want to work, live and visit Virginia Beach. I think our residents and visitors are noticing these positive changes."
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 hrc.org/resources/municipal-equality-index.