Municipal Equality Index 2023

A nationwide evaluation of municipal law.

HRC Foundation, November 2023 | 40 Minute Read

Dear Friends,

I am thrilled to announce the release of the 12th edition of the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a benchmarking tool designed to enlighten municipal officials, policymakers, and esteemed business leaders about the extent to which cities across America have embraced LGBTQ+ inclusivity within their laws, policies, and services.

We come to this moment realizing a central truth: The fight for LGBTQ+ equality is at a pivotal crossroads. This past summer, for the very first time in our history, the Human Rights Campaign declared a State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ people in America. This unprecedented step was taken in direct response to the introduction of over 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in state legislatures, with more than 80 of them being signed into law. In this moment of crisis, while federal-level LGBTQ+ protections remain crucial, it is abundantly clear that the heart of the battle resides at the local level, underscoring the urgent need for local leaders and municipalities like never before.

Since the inception of the MEI in 2011, we have witnessed city leaders from every corner of this nation demonstrate commitment to advancing LGBTQ+ equality through both word and deed. This year, despite nearly daily assaults on the LGBTQ+ community, particularly focused on trans people, we have made progress. Remarkably, a record-breaking 129 cities, constituting over 25 percent of all MEI-rated cities, have achieved the highest possible score of 100, an increase from the 120 achieved in 2022. In 20 states, 76 cities have reached scores exceeding 85, even in the absence of non-discrimination statutes that explicitly safeguard sexual orientation and gender identity.

We applaud these local champions of equality for their courage and commitment. Together, with our partners at the Equality Federation Institute and our state-level LGBTQ+ organizations, we remain steadfast in our commitment to creating cities and municipalities that are safe, welcoming, and deeply inclusive for all LGBTQ+ individuals, without exception.

This year's MEI report serves as a stark reminder that our work at the grassroots level, as a collective movement, remains unfinished. For the first time in the history of the MEI, fewer cities are providing transgender-inclusive health benefits to municipal employees. While the number of cities offering such benefits has increased—215 cities now provide packages inclusive of transgender health care—state legislation has substantially affected their enforceability and accessibility.

Approximately 20 percent of cities that offer trans-inclusive benefits are unable to extend the same provisions to dependent minors. Only 173 cities can presently offer comprehensive health benefits, including coverage for gender-affirming care, to their municipal employees.

We cannot ignore the political attacks targeting transgender and non-binary people. These attacks exacerbate anti-trans stigma and further endanger our community, especially BIPOC trans and non-binary people who must also contend with racism in our society. This perilous combination of harmful legislation and hateful online rhetoric has tangible, often fatal consequences for our community.

In this challenging time of crisis, the Municipal Equality Index remains a crucial tool, enabling us to discern areas of progress and highlighting the road that lies ahead. I trust that this report will inspire local leaders, policymakers, and advocates to redouble their efforts in the relentless pursuit of comprehensive LGBTQ+ equality.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of you for your unwavering commitment to this pivotal cause.

In Service,

Kelley Robinson , President , Human Rights Campaign Foundation

Dear Readers,

In this political moment, as we face powerful challenges to fairness, justice, and democracy at the federal and state levels, we look to cities and localities to offer protections and care for their LGBTQ+ communities. We are honored to partner on this 12th iteration of HRC’s Municipal Equality Index, a tool that helps cities and advocates on the ground take stock of their progress and advocate for needed policies and protections, marking essential steps forward to achieve equality for LGBTQ+ people and our families.

Over the past year, the importance and impact of existing local-level protections became even more crucial as the attacks on LGBTQ+ people at the state level rapidly increased. Our opponents are fixated on denying medical care to transgender youth, banning drag performances, and preventing youth in schools from reading or discussing anything about queer and trans identities. There is no doubt about it: our community is under attack. Yet, I am heartened by the advocates and community leaders who are doing all they can to fight for LGBTQ+ folks during this state of emergency, even when their power to fix the damage done by the state is limited.

Equality Federation sees firsthand the work of our 46 state partners who are on the ground talking to voters and lawmakers in cities and towns of every size — and getting the work done to protect their communities. This year, a record-breaking 129 cities — over 25 percent of all MEI-rated cities — earned the highest score of 100, up from 120 in 2022. From Georgia to Ohio to Wyoming, local leaders and community members are fighting for protections in their hometowns.

While state legislatures are attacking LGBTQ+ people, cities are pushing policies to support them. Cities across the Midwest — like Kansas City, MO and Lawrence, KS — have declared themselves “safe havens” for transgender people even though they’re located in states with laws that discriminate against trans youth. In 20 states across the country, 76 cities earned over 85 points despite hailing from a state without nondiscrimination statutes that explicitly protect sexual orientation and gender identity. New cities in almost every region of the country passed local nondiscrimination ordinances, protecting LGBTQ+ residents from discrimination in the communities they call home.

In the current political climate, it is crucial to focus on achieving local victories that will push us closer to the day when full equality is realized in every town, county, and state across the nation.

We invite you to use this report to motivate and educate your communities about the progress we've made and the work that lies ahead. As we set our sights on 2024, we remain committed to addressing the hurdles on our path toward achieving comprehensive national policy victories that protect everyone. Nevertheless, we know that the dedicated efforts of state and local advocates will continue to be essential in securing protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in all the places they call home.


Fran Hutchins , Executive Director , Equality Federation Institute

Inclusivity Drives Economic Growth

Ensuring that all city residents, workers, and visitors are protected from discrimination is not just the right thing to do. Full inclusivity drives economic growth.

Cities are in constant competition for residents, visitors, employees, and businesses. A demonstrated commitment to equality through laws and policies that protect everyone, including LGBTQ+ people, sends a clear message that all residents, visitors, workers, and businesses are welcomed and valued. Inclusive non-discrimination laws give cities a competitive edge.

A growing body of research shows that openness to diversity and inclusion is not a byproduct of communities that achieve economic prosperity, but rather a key element in the formula that leads to economic growth.

The Fortune 500 has long utilized inclusive workplace policies as proven recruitment and retention tools. Diversity and inclusion enhance an employer’s reputation, increase job satisfaction, and boost employee morale. Similarly, municipalities and their employees benefit from LGBTQ-inclusive workplace policies and practices.

What’s more, businesses actively take into account local laws and policies when making decisions about cities in which to headquarter, relocate, or expand. In fact, the nation’s top businesses are becoming increasingly vocal in their support for laws and policies that protect all of their employees and their families at home, in the workplace, and in their communities.

Following an unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults sweeping state houses this year, the Human Rights Campaign officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time in its more than 40-year history. The sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ measures has spawned a dizzying patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have created increasingly hostile and dangerous environments for LGBTQ+ people, prompting many parents to consider relocation for the health and safety of their kids.

Success Story

Until full nationwide equality is realized, cities must continue to lead the way on vital protections for LGBTQ+ residents, visitors, and workers. In doing so, city leaders will help ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all residents while encouraging real economic growth that benefits everyone.

Cities Rated by the MEI

Executive Summary

2023 was yet another record-breaking and difficult year for LGBTQ+ people across the country. More than 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been signed into law this year alone, more than doubling last year’s number, which was previously the worst year on record. Following this unprecedented and dangerous spike in anti-LGBTQ+ legislative assaults, the Human Rights Campaign officially declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people in the United States for the first time.

But in municipalities, where democratic government is closest to the people, we saw many cities expand protections for LGBTQ+ folks, pass inclusive policies, and push back against anti-equality state legislation. Yet again, this report boasts a record number of cities achieving 100-point scores and the highest all-around city average the MEI has had in its twelve-year history. Cities understand that while state legislatures continue to sow seeds of division, it is on municipalities to build communities that include and support equality for everyone – without exception.

Key Findings

This edition marks the sixth consecutive year that the average city score has risen, with a record-breaking number of 100-point cities. Over 25 percent of MEI-rated cities achieved the highest score possible, offering non-discrimination protections, municipal services to particularly vulnerable LGBTQ+ communities, and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

As ever, the MEI demonstrates the power of cities in more conservative states to move the needle for equality: cities in Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wyoming achieved “All-Star” status on the MEI for the first time this year.

However, many cities obtaining 100 scores on the MEI can’t promise 100 score experiences for its residents, especially in places where state legislatures have made the state unsafe and unlivable for so many. This devastating reality has particularly affected many cities’ ability to offer transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits. For the [first time] in the history of the MEI, fewer cities are providing transgender-inclusive health benefits to municipal employees. While more cities are offering those benefits (215 cities have benefits packages including transgender-inclusive health care), state legislation has gravely impacted the enforceability and accessibility of these benefits. 42 cities, or about 20 percent of cities with trans-inclusive benefits, are unable to offer the same benefits to dependent minors. As a result, only 173 cities offer and are able to actually provide health benefits to their municipal employees that include coverage for gender-affirming care.

State and Regional Trends

36 state averages increased since the 2022 MEI. Every region of the country saw the regional average score increase this year. Even in the face of unprecedented hostility to LGBTQ+ people by state legislatures, municipalities across the country continued to make their laws and policies more inclusive. More than 75 percent of cities rated in 2023 scored better than 52 points - which is an important marker to show that the work is truly happening everywhere. Cities across the country are showing that progress toward equality is both possible and important.

New Records

This year’s MEI revealed:

  • 129 100-point cities, or over 25 percent of all MEI-rated cities, up from 120 last year.

  • 51 municipalities have anti-conversion therapy ordinances with 34 municipalities having these ordinances in states with no state-level protections.

  • 30.3 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.

  • 149 cities offer equal benefits to the same- or different-sex domestic partners of city employees and their legal dependents.

  • 242 municipalities require their contractors to have employment non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

  • Only 5 zero-point scores.


While state legislatures have created a dizzying patchwork of discriminatory state laws that have created increasingly hostile and dangerous environments for LGBTQ+ people, municipalities are continuing to push forward on matters of equality. 2023 boasts more perfect scores, a higher overall average, 75 percent of scores better than 52 points, and continued success in every region of the country. Once again, the MEI has shown that local leaders understand the ongoing need, especially in light of the state of emergency, to ensure that the people in their communities are safe, seen, and served.

Of the 129 Cities that Earned 100...

City Selection

How Cities Were Selected for Rating

The 2023 Municipal Equality Index rates 506 municipalities of varying sizes drawn from every state in the nation.

These 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 (including undergraduate and graduate enrollment), 75 cities and municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state groups members and supporters.

These 75 cities with the highest proportions of same-sex couples are drawn from an analysis of the 2010 Census results by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law which ranked the 25 large cities (population exceeding 250,000), 25 mid-size cities (population between 100,000 and 250,000), and 25 small cities (population below 100,000) with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.

To be consistent, we rated all twenty-five of these small cities, even though some of these small “cities” are in fact unincorporated census-designated places. In that case, we rated the laws and policies of the applicable incorporated local government (the entity actually rated, often the county, will be clearly indicated).

Significant overlap between these categories of cities brings the total number of cities rated in the 2023 MEI to 506, which has been the number of cities rated since 2016. In 2012, the MEI rated 137 cities; in 2013, 291; in 2014, 353; and in 2015 we rated 408 cities.

Why isn’t Washington, D.C. Rated?

Washington, D.C. is not rated by the MEI, even though it has a high proportion of same-sex couples and fits into several of the city selection criteria. Unlike the cities rated in the MEI, however, Washington D.C. is a federal district. This means that it has powers and limitations so significantly different from the municipalities the MEI rates that the comparison would be unfair— for example, no city rated by the MEI has the legal capacity to pass marriage equality, as Washington, D.C. did in 2009. While the District of Columbia is not a state, either, it is more properly compared to a state than it is to a city. For that reason, Washington, D.C. is included in HRC’s annual State Equality Index. More information on Washington, D.C.’s laws and policies can be viewed on the maps of state laws located at

Scoring Criteria

When elected leaders speak out on matters of equality, their constituents do hear—and it informs their constituents’ perception of safety, inclusion, and belonging.


Issue Brief: Why Municipal Equality Matters in the Midst of a National LGBTQ+ State of Emergency

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Issue Brief: Overcoming State Preemption to Protect LGBTQ+ Rights in 2023

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The MEI is designed to understand the unique situation of each city and is structured to reward the specific achievements of a local government.

Acknowledging the Context of Municipal Law

Not All Cities Are Created Equal

Some cities have the autonomy and wherewithal to pass inclusive laws and offer cutting-edge city services; other cities are hampered by severe state-imposed limitations on their ability to pass inclusive laws, or they have found that the small scope of their local government limits their capabilities.

The MEI is designed to understand the unique situation of each city and is structured to reward the specific achievements of a local government.

The efforts and achievements of each city can only be fairly judged within that city’s context; while imposing a score may seem to strip a city of its context, the MEI honors the different situations from which the selected cities come in three major ways:


First, in addition to the 100 standard points for city laws and services, the MEI includes 22 flex points.

Flex points are awarded for essential programs, protections, or benefits that are not attainable or very difficult to attain for some cities; therefore, cities with the item are rewarded, but cities without it are not penalized.

Flex points can also provide some leeway for cities that face challenges in accomplishing the specific achievements the MEI measures, and ensure that every city has the ability to improve its score for next year.


Second, the MEI weighs state and municipal law such that the effect of excellent or restrictive state law does not determine the city’s ability to score well.


Third, it also rates the city leadership’s public position on LGBTQ+ equality and gives credit for legislative efforts (even unsuccessful efforts), so if a city has outspoken advocates for equality who are unfortunately still in the minority, the city will still receive credit for the efforts it has made.

Fair Assessment Respects Legal Differences

The Municipal Equality Index is carefully designed to rate cities in detail while respecting that a number of factors may boost or inhibit a city’s ability or incentives to adopt the laws and policies this project rates.

Given the range of authority and incentives that cities have, and acknowledging that our effort to rate small cities as well as large cities exacerbates these challenges, the MEI had to wrestle with three major questions in its initial design.


How could the MEI fairly take state law into account, particularly as the disparity between states with pro-equality laws and states without pro-equality laws continues to grow?


The answer is balance; the rating system would not be fair if cities were not able to score a 100 on the MEI without living in a state that had favorable state law. Allocating the points carefully to respect the dynamic relationship between state and local government was a must. Unfortunately, many of the anti-LGBTQ+ state laws enacted this year negated or overrode positive efforts several cities have made over the years, especially in regard to cities offering inclusive health care policies for transgender employees or transgender family members of employees. Because several states banned the use of public funds to pay for health care for transgender people, cities in those states no longer are able to provide such benefits. In an effort to accurately reflect enforceable laws and policies, we concentrated on what the state law meant for the city being rated.


How could the MEI assess a list of cities as diverse as those selected while acknowledging that the smaller places rated may understandably have less capacity to engage on LGBTQ+ issues?


We addressed concerns about a small city’s capacity to affect change by building flexibility into the scorecard through the use of flex points and by providing multiple avenues toward earning points.


What do MEI scores say about the atmosphere for LGBTQ+ people living and working in a particular place?


This last point is to recognize that even the most thoughtful survey of laws and policies cannot objectively assess the efficacy of enforcement and it certainly cannot encapsulate the lived experience of discrimination that many LGBTQ+ people—even those living in 100-point cities—face every day.

This question can only be answered by precisely defining what the MEI is designed to do: the MEI is an evaluation of municipal laws and policies.

It is not a rating of the best places for LGBTQ+ people to live, nor is it an evaluation of the adequacy or effectiveness of enforcement.

It is not an encapsulation of what it feels like to be an LGBTQ+ person walking down the street. While some LGBTQ+ people may prefer to live in cities that respect and include them, there are undoubtedly many other factors that make a community a welcoming, inclusive place to live.

To be clear, the MEI specifically rates cities on their laws and policies while respecting the legal and political context the city operates within. It is not a measure of an LGBTQ+ person’s lived experience in that city.

Accounting For City Size

The MEI rates municipalities as small as Bethany Beach, Delaware (2010 population according to the US Census: 1,060) and as large as New York City (2010 population according to the US Census: 8,175,133). Such a range in city size creates concerns about ensuring that the efforts of small cities are not diminished in comparison to the capabilities of large cities.

Fairness dictates that the MEI not measure small cities against a standard only the metropolitan giants of the country can meet.

The MEI is designed to ensure that small cities have the same ability to score well on the MEI as large cities do.

First, while some of the criteria might be more challenging for a small city to accomplish, none of the non-flex criteria are prohibitive for small cities. Further, flexibility was built into the scoring system to acknowledge that a small city may accomplish the criteria in a slightly different manner: for example, an LGBTQ+ liaison may have many other duties, and a Human Rights Commission might be all-volunteer.

Second, the MEI uses flex points to ensure cities are not being held accountable for services that they simply are unable to provide. Points pertaining to a city’s administrative structure and capabilities are generally flex points and there often are multiple paths to earning the same set of points.

Having alternative paths to the same points and classifying some points as flex points accommodates the varying needs and capabilities of different sized cities.

An analysis of the MEI’s results over the past several editions shows these efforts to accommodate small cities worked: small cities were able to score comparably with the large cities.

More than half of the cities rated qualify as “small”, and these continue to be represented more or less proportionally across the range of scores, including top scores. In every edition the data has clearly shown that a city’s score is not well predicted by its size.

Success Story

City Size Not Predictive of MEI Score

Balancing State and Local Laws

Cities are creations of the state. Cities are granted the power to govern by their states, and some states have multiple classes of cities that are invested with varying degrees of autonomy. Some cities are granted so much power that they have nearly complete independence, but other cities—particularly smaller cities—are more limited in the scope of their city government.

To be a worthwhile survey of cities across states, the MEI must be respectful of how different cities are from one another.

This is especially true when LGBTQ+ law is the subject being surveyed. Some cities are hampered from passing pro-equality laws by state law that limits their ability to do so; others come from states with strong pro-equality laws that ensure a high level of legal protections for all.

The MEI balances the influence of LGBTQ-inclusive state law by weighing state and local laws equally, and by not awarding double points to a city fortunate enough to have protections at both the state and local levels.

If a state has a comprehensive and inclusive non-discrimination law, a city may not be incentivized to pass an ordinance extending duplicative protections, but it should still have those protections reflected in its score.

Conversely, the city should be able to achieve a top score on the basis of municipal law alone—otherwise the MEI would not be a true evaluation of cities. The success of this balanced approach is demonstrated by a number of cities who were able to achieve top scores despite being in states that do not have pro-equality laws.

Success Story

Understanding Restrictive State Law

Some states restrict their cities from passing inclusive laws either by passing specific legislation that prohibits cities from doing so or through application of the Dillon’s Rule (which prevents cities from providing broader non-discrimination protections than those offered under state law) to LGBTQ-inclusive legislation.

An example of restrictive legislation is a Tennessee law that prohibits municipalities from passing non-discrimination ordinances that affect private employees. Because of these types of restrictions, not every city has the power to enact the types of legislation that the MEI measures.

While some states prohibit cities from passing inclusive laws, other states impact the enforceability of inclusive municipal laws and policies by enacting anti-LGBTQ+ measures. These measures include laws ranging on matters such as gender-affirming care bans, transgender kids participating in sports and using facilities that align with their gender identity, and even prohibitions on discussions of LGBTQ+ topics in schools.

An example of anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation impacting municipal enforcement is a North Carolina law that bans gender-affirming care for people under 18. Because of this type of state legislation, many municipalities were unable to provide transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to their employees and their dependents. Similarly, a state law in Florida that prohibits transgender people from using restroom facilities that align with their gender identity impacted municipalities’ non-discrimination protections in public accommodations.

Cities with a dedication to equality that are in Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina, for example, will never be able to score as well as cities with comparable dedication to equality that exist in states without the restrictive or anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

However, the MEI provides avenues for cities who are dedicated to equality—as some cities in North Carolina and Tennessee are—to have that commitment reflected in their score despite restrictive or anti-LGBTQ+ state law.

Flex points are offered for testing the limits of these state restrictions, while standard points reflect city leadership advocating against the state restrictions.

These flex points help to level the playing field for restricted cities; however, the small number of cities suffering such restrictions will find it extremely challenging—and, in some cases, perhaps impossible—to score a 100 on the MEI.

While this may initially appear to be at odds with the MEI’s purpose of evaluating what cities do, the bottom line is that these vital protections don’t exist for the folks who live and work in these cities. That these cities will face an uphill battle in earning points for certain criteria on the MEI is a reflection of the actual difficulties they face as a result of restrictive state law.

Ameliorating the effect of a restrictive state law on the MEI score would be a dishonest representation of the protections that the city truly does offer.

Success Stories

The Effect of Enforcement and Lived Experience

The MEI is an encapsulation of the best practices of inclusion followed by cities nationwide. It is a blueprint for positive change and an opportunity for cities to become aware of best practices in municipal equality. It is not a ranking of the friendliest cities to live in. It neither attempts to quantify how respectfully cities enforce their laws, nor does it try to gauge the experience of an LGBTQ+ person interacting with the police or city hall.

Fair and respectful implementation of the best practices described by the MEI is crucial if the policies are to have any meaning. Realistically, the MEI simply has no objective way of measuring the quality of enforcement. Even the most thoughtful survey of laws and policies cannot objectively assess the efficacy of enforcement and it certainly cannot encapsulate the lived experience of discrimination that many LGBTQ+ people—even those living in 100 point cities—face every day.

The MEI can make some limited, blunt judgments about the existence of enforcement, if not its quality. For example, one of the harder questions the MEI faces is evaluating how seriously police departments take anti-LGBTQ+ related violence. While the MEI awards points to cities that report hate crimes statistics to the FBI, it does not evaluate whether the report made by the police department to the FBI is an accurate reflection of hate crimes, whether detectives competently collected evidence related to proving a hate-related motivation for the violence or whether the police department created a safe space for victims to come forward. It doesn’t measure how respectful police are when making a stop, nor how the police decide whom to stop.

Collecting and assessing such data in an objective, thorough way would be impossible. However, a city will not receive credit for reporting hate crimes if the city hasn’t reported any hate crimes of any kind this year or for five previous years. The MEI deems this effectively non-reporting because the probability is very low that a city truly experienced zero hate crimes of any kind in five years. While this is a judgment call, it is the best measure the MEI has to determine if hate crimes are being taken seriously at the local level.

A 100-point city, then, may have terrific policies—a well-trained police force, a police liaison, and consistent hate crimes reporting—but nevertheless be an atmosphere in which LGBTQ+ people have intense fear of tangling with the police department. This fear may be magnified for LGBTQ+ people of color or undocumented LGBTQ+ immigrants, and the MEI reflects discrimination against those populations in only a general way. On the other hand, a police department in a 40-point city could have none of these policies but have a reputation for fair and respectful enforcement. The MEI specifically rates cities on their laws and policies; it is not a measure of an LGBTQ+ person’s living experience in that city.

Having alternative paths to the same points and classifying some points as flex points accommodates the varying needs and capabilities of different sized cities.

Summary of Results

The Municipal Equality Index continues to put a spotlight on the important work toward municipal equality happening in cities of every state, in every region, regardless of the state’s partisan representation. Yet again, the MEI shows growth in important policies, benefits, and protections which have a tangible and important effect for LGBTQ+ people.

However, this year, more than ever, the MEI also highlights how even cities with the best intentions do not exist in a vacuum. The onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ state legislation this year has created a dangerous situation for many LGBTQ+ people in this country, and that legislation has unfortunately negated or overridden positive efforts many cities have made over the years. Enacted gender-affirming care bans have devastatingly impacted municipalities’ ability to ensure that all employees and their dependents are able to access age-appropriate, medically-necessary gender-affirming care. Municipal efforts to enforce strong and robust non-discrimination protections, specifically for transgender and non-binary people, have been preempted or watered down.

While we cannot overstate the severity of the assault on LGBTQ+ rights in state legislatures, the index continues to acknowledge and celebrate the successes of cities who care about fostering an inclusive and welcoming environment for all. “All-Star” cities - cities that had excellent scores in spite of being in states without explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people - were able to achieve that status regardless of being small, medium, or large cities. 110 small cities scored above the national average, as did 102 medium cities - showing that the MEI’s flexible structure continues to celebrate the work being done in places with smaller budgets but equally big hearts. This twelfth edition of the MEI celebrates these cities and their relentless efforts to advance matters of LGBTQ+ equality in a time when LGBTQ+ people need it the most.


Municipalities not currently rated by the MEI can submit their city for rating by completing the self-submit process.

Equality Across America

View Scorecards for Each City


SARAH WARBELOW is the Legal Director for the Human Rights Campaign, where she leads HRC’s team of litigators, policy attorneys and law fellows, and oversees the Municipal Equality and State Equality Indices.

CATHRYN OAKLEY is HRC’s State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel and the founding author of the Municipal Equality Index. She supervises the Municipal Equality Index and State Equality Index and state and local policy work.

KATHRYN E. HILL serves as Legislative Counsel at the Human Rights Campaign, focusing on state and municipal level advocacy. She handles a range of issues, including those related to discrimination laws, conversion therapy bans, and LGBTQ+ youth.

BRITTNY PHAM is the Manager for State and Municipal Programs, where she manages both the Municipal Equality Index and the State Equality Index each year. Brittny administers the resources for the MEI project to provide to cities and counties looking to make their communities more inclusive.

To reach the MEI team with questions, comments, suggestions, or other resources, please email


The MEI is an unmatched assessment of municipal equality that would not see the light of day without the commitment and contributions of many individuals working together over the course of the entire year.

This year we extend a special thanks to HRC colleagues JoDee Winterhof, Samantha Griffith, Courtnay Avant, Alec Carrasco, Sam Lau, Laurel Powell, Kathryn Smith, Amy Oden, Robert Villaflor, Carly Fox, Hillary Esquina, Jose Soto, Simon Garcia, Lynne Bowman, John Gruber, Lauren Everett, Reg Calcano, Cooper Reed, Wendy Strout, Ryan Wilson, Karl Catarata, Ryan Matthews, Kendall Kalustyan, Clint Birdsong, Christopher Huntley, and HRC’s McCleary Law Fellows and Legal Interns.

Finally, thanks to Noted Branding and Viget for making the magic of the MEI come to life.


As always, this work happens because of our dedicated partners at the Equality Federation Institute. The achievements we celebrate in this publication are often theirs. The state groups on the following page deserve a special mention for their engagement and support this year.

For questions or additional information, please contact or visit

The Municipal Equality Index would not have been possible without the valuable contributions made by state and local advocates. A particular thanks therefore goes out to the following: