Story at a glance

  • 2021 was a record year for LGBTQ+ equality in the U.S., with the largest number of cities and municipalities ever recorded enacting policies that positively affected the LGBTQ+ community.
  • More than 100 cities earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, which assessed 506 municipalities on 49 criteria.
  • In 20 states, 72 cities scored higher than 85 points, despite being located in a state without nondiscrimination protections.

More U.S. cities this year than ever before have made policy changes that positively affect LGBTQ+ people, according to new data published Thursday.

Across the country, 110 cities in 2021 earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index, which rates municipal policies, laws and services affecting the LGBTQ+ community. That’s up from 94 in 2020 and just 11 in 2012, when the index was first released.

The national average hit 67 points, also a record, according to the index, produced jointly with the Equality Federation. A quarter of the 506 cities included in the report scored more than 96 points, and 50 percent scored higher than 69 points.

Still, more than 40 states this year introduced “anti-LGBTQ+ legislation,” and a record number of those passed. Eight cities scored below zero points.


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“LGBTQ+ people are everywhere — in every city, county and ZIP code,” JoDee Winterhof, Human Rights Campaign senior vice president of policy and political affairs, said in a press release. “This year, state-wide lawmakers have zeroed in on attacking transgender and non-binary children — for no reason other than in an effort to harm and erase them.”

But local leaders and activists were still able to “move the needle of progress forward,” she added, and 17 cities in states that do not have nondiscrimination protections in place passed ordinances protecting young people from conversion therapy. That includes, for the first time ever, cities in Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia.

The report shows that, for the most part, municipalities this year were often far ahead of their states in advancing LGBTQ+ equality. 

In 20 states, 74 cities scored higher than 85 points despite being located in a state without laws that make discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity illegal, up from just five municipalities in 2012.

Every region in the country saw its regional average score tick up this year, with the largest increases in the Southwest and Southeast.

The index covers 50 state capitals, the 200 largest U.S. cities, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state and cities home to each state’s two largest public universities. 

The 75 municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples were also included, along with 98 cities chosen by HRC and Equity Federation state group members.

Each location was assessed on 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal workers, city services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.


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Published on Nov 18, 2021