Arlington has been named one of 37 American “All-Star Cities” acclaimed for their high standard of inclusiveness toward their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer communities.
“We are proud of this recognition from the Human Rights Campaign, especially as we face numerous obstacles here in Virginia” said Jay Fisette, Vice Chair of the County Board and Virginia’s first openly gay elected official.
For the second straight year, Arlington scored an 87 out of 100 on the Campaign’s Municipal Quality Index (MEI). The Index measures the effectiveness of local governments in ensuring LGBTQ inclusion through policies and practices.
The Human Rights Campaign requires a minimum MEI score of 85 for All-Star status.
Because the All-Star Cities are exclusively in states that lack certain established LGBTQ protections such as transgender benefits for employees, those local governments cannot earn a 100 rating without the help of bonus points.
“The HRC Index and our All-Star status reinforce the fact that Arlington values each member of our community,” said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “Our diversity is what makes us so strong and long ago we realized the value of inclusiveness as our official approach. Clearly our state has to make up ground in areas of human rights, but our nation has made great strides of late and Arlington does everything it can.”
Arlington received top MEI scores this year in such areas as non-discrimination in County employment, leadership’s pro-equality positions and the respectful approach of law enforcement.
Bonus points were awarded for Arlington services including those that help the LGBTQ homeless and people living with HIV/AIDS. The County also received extra credits for being a welcoming work place and pro-equality despite the lack of certain state protections.
Virginia currently has no laws preventing discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Dillon Rule in Virginia prevents local governments from acting on issues in which authority has not been expressly granted by the General Assembly.
Alexandria is the only other Virginia “All-Star” city this year, with a score of 86.
The annual MEI rates communities based on 44 criteria that fall into five broad categories:
- Non-discrimination laws
- Municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors
- Inclusiveness of local services
- Law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting
- Municipal leadership on matters of equality
The Arlington County Human Rights Ordinance opposes discrimination based on sexual orientation along with race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, marital status and pregnancy. The Ordinance also established the County Human Rights Commission.
The Arlington County Equal Employment Opportunity Policy protects County employees and applicants for employment with County government.
Jay Fisette was first elected to office running for Arlington County Board in 1997.