St. Louis receives perfect score in annual Human Rights Campaign equality report
The Human Rights Campaign has awarded the City of St. Louis a perfect score in the organization’s 2023 Municipal Equality Index for its support of the queer community.
The annual report, now on its 12th edition, is a comprehensive nationwide assessment of LGBTQ+ equality through the lens of policies, laws and services that exist in communities around the United States.
“Even with the challenges that we're facing, the [index] shows us that more cities and towns than ever are standing up for LGBTQ+ equality,” said Kelly Robinson, president of the Human Rights Commission Foundation. “That's thanks to mayors, counselors and city managers who are doing everything they can to support their LGBTQ+ residents.”
"Being a blue city in a red state comes with its own significant challenges," said Mayor Tishaura Jones, under the rotunda of City Hall on Tuesday. "The City of St. Louis, and our friends across the state in Kansas City, are frequently preempted in our attempts to keep our city safe and welcoming places for all.”
Jones said despite St. Louis’ nondiscrimination ordinance, she’s heard from queer residents who still face bias in housing and employment.
“Families across St. Louis had to weigh the difficult option of staying in the city they love or moving … to make sure that their children get the care they need,” she said. “That's a decision that no family should ever have to make.”
Issues surrounding transgender children were one of the Missouri GOP’s priorities last session, with the legislature voting to restrict students from receiving some forms of gender-affirming care and barring transgender students’ participation on school sport teams that align with their gender identity.
Missouri was second in the nation in the number of anti-trans pieces of legislation filed during the 2023 legislative session, according to Track Trans Legislation. The 40 pieces filed in this year’s session was an increase from 14 in 2022 and 11 in 2021.
“Never in [our] 37-year history … has there been such a dangerous legislative session, such as the one in 2023,” said Robert Fischer, director of communications for PROMO, a statewide LGBTQ+ advocacy group. “We begin the 2024 legislative session in only a matter of weeks, and next year looks to be more of the same with renewed attacks on LGBTQ+ people, Black and brown individuals.”
The perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign comes after the City of St. Louis’ 11-member LGBTQIA+ Advisory Board released its findings and recommendations after roughly a year’s worth of convenings.
The Jones-created group, in part, commended the city on pushing inclusive policies across city departments and ongoing education for first responders. But it noted a mistrust between LGBTQ+ people and the government, discrimination in housing and employment, as well as decentralized resources.
The board’s recommendations include improving language in governmental documents, adopting a gender-inclusive municipal ID, expanding public education on queer issues and enshrining antidiscrimination clauses in the city charter.
Despite the increase in anti-LGBTQ+ policies across the country, advocates said they are hopeful for the future in St. Louis.
“St. Louis is what we call an 'all-star city’ because it is a beacon of hope and progress in a state that too often turns its back on its citizens,” Robinson said. “St. Louis, and all the all-star cities across America, remind us that even in these tough times, we can come together and make our world more equal and more inclusive.”