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December 17, 2015

Philadelphia earns perfect score – again – for LGBT protections

Philadelphia has achieved a perfect score – the third time in three years – on the 2015 Municipal Equality Index, which grades U.S. cities for the level of local protections for LGBT people.

The city was one of 47 in the United States – a record number – to attain 100 points on the 2015 scorecard compiled by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

To earn perfect scores, cities must embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws and policies that often go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government.

Philadelphia earned perfect scores in the five criteria: non-discrimination laws in areas of employment, housing and public accommodations; equivalent benefits and protections to LGBT employees; inclusion of LGBT constituents in city services and programs; responsible law enforcement reporting of hate crimes; and the commitment by city leaders to fully include the LGBT community and advocate for full equality.

The city also earned a total of 16 bonus points for being a "Welcoming Place to Work," having a Human Rights Commission with enforcement power; providing services to LGBT youth, homeless and elderly, and to those living with HIV/AIDS; for having openly LGBT leaders in elected or appointed positions; and for being pro-equality despite restrictive state law.

In November, Philadelphians voted to make permanent the city's Office of LGBT Affairs.

Notably, the annual report illustrates a trend of rapidly growing number of cities and towns across the nation "stepping up to ensure that all people are treated equally, even in states where fully-inclusive LGBT laws and policies remain elusive," the HRCF said in a statement.

At least 32 million people live in cities with fully-inclusive local protections that are not guaranteed by the states in which they live. Conversely, the HRCF said, equality in many cities, especially in the South, is lacking, with "too many municipalities failing to protect their LGBT residents and employees."

The average city score was 56 points, with half of the cities researched scoring more than 59 points, the Index reported. Eleven percent scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 78 points; 25 percent scored under 31 points; and five percent scored fewer than 10 points.

"While this has been an historic year for equality, we are constantly reminded of just how far we still have to go,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “In too many communities, LGBT Americans continue to face barriers to equality, overt discrimination, and even violence. We believe those challenges make full equality and strong legal protections all the more important, and today's report makes clear that hundreds of local communities throughout all 50 states wholeheartedly agree.”

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation is the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization.