Arlington scored 100 points out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 9th annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for its high standards of inclusiveness and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.
While Arlington has been a top-ranked community in the past, this year it was recognized for adding gender identity/expression protections to its Human Rights ordinance and providing all-gender bathrooms in County-owned offices and facilities.
“For the first time ever, Arlington received a perfect score of 100. We are proud to stand up for equality and to ensure that there is no place for discrimination of any kind in Arlington,” said Board Chair Libby Garvey.
HRC is the country’s largest LGBTQ-rights group. Its annual MEI measures the effectiveness of local governments in ensuring LGBTQ inclusion through their laws, policies and services. Communities are rated on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.
Improving Gender Identity/Expression Protections
The Arlington County Board amended Arlington’s Human Rights Ordinance to include Gender Identity as a basis under which a claim of discrimination may be made.
Arlington also updated its Administrative Regulations to include a Restroom and Locker Room Access Policy that ensures employees can use the restroom and locker room facilities that correspond with their gender identity or expression. Where possible, Arlington County Government has provided single-occupancy, all-gender restrooms. Any individual may choose to use a single-occupancy restroom, but no one, including a transgender person, is required to. The policy extends to all employees, contractors guests and customers in all County-owned offices and facilities.
“We are excited to receive a perfect score on the MEI, which reflects what Arlingtonians and others who visit the County have long known — we are proud of our diverse and inclusive community,” said Gurjit Chima, Assistant County Manager, Human Rights, EEO & ADA and Executive Director of the Office of Human Rights. “Our rating by the Human Rights Campaign is a welcome bright spot for the community in what has been a challenging year for all.”
Non-Discrimination Laws, Services and Law Enforcement
The MEI examines how inclusive a jurisdiction’s laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ people who live and work there. It includes five categories: non-discrimination laws; benefits and protections for municipal employees; municipal services for the LGBTQ community; law enforcement; and leadership on LGBTQ equality.
Arlington received full points for its laws barring discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, for providing LGBTQ protections and transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits for County employees and for its leadership on equality and commitment to ensuring LGBTQ constituents are included in city services and programs.
Arlington also earned top scores for its law enforcement efforts, including responsible reporting of hate crimes, engaging with the LGBTQ community in a thoughtful and respectful way and including an LGBTQ Liaison/Task Force as part of its Police Department.
Arlington received bonus points for offering single-occupancy all-gender facilities, domestic partner benefits for County employees, and services to the LGBTQ community.
Virginia Protections Expanded
Virginia was singled out in the MEI report as the first state in the South to secure statewide nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity. Virginia was one of four states with the highest state average increases since 2019, up 24 points since last year. Arlington, Alexandria, Richmond and Virginia Beach all earned 100 points.
Diversity and Inclusion in Arlington
Learn more about the services provided by Arlington’s Office of Human Rights and what Arlington’s Human Rights Commission and Equality Task Force are doing to help make Arlington more diverse and inclusive. Visit the County’s LGBTQIA+ Resources page to find local and national resources that serve the community.
Arlington’s Human Rights Ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, private education, commercial real estate transactions and public accommodations based on sexual orientation along with race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, marital and familial status and pregnancy. Arlington’s Human Rights Commission follows current federal EEOC guidelines and interprets sex and gender protections as including gender identity and expression.
The Arlington County Equal Employment Opportunity Policy protects Arlington County employees and applicants for employment from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.