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St. Petersburg and Tampa earn perfect scores in a nationwide assessment on LGBTQ+ equality

A group of colorful, bearded drag performers pose for a group photo.
Daylina Miller
WUSF Public Media
St. Pete Pride is considered the largest Pride event in Florida and the southeast.

Tampa and St. Petersburg are among 20 Florida cities assessed by the Human Rights Campaign this year when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, laws and services.

The city of St. Petersburg received a perfect score for the eighth year in a row in a new report released by the nation's biggest LGBTQ + civil rights organization.

The Human Rights Campaign, in its 10th annual Municipal Equality Index, assessed LGBTQ+ equality in more than 500 cities in all 50 states, including 20 in Florida, by looking at policies, laws and services.

In addition to St. Petersburg, nine other Florida cities received a perfect score, including Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Oakland Park, Orlando, Tallahassee, Wellington, West Palm Beach, and Wilton Manors.

Jim Nixon, the LGBTQ liaison for the city of St. Petersburg, said the report looks beyond the political aspirations of a city and digs deeper into what it offers — like gender affirming health care for transgender employees.

"Even the Human Rights Campaign had told me last year, you know, ‘There's two cities we never worry about it — San Francisco,’ and I was thinking, 'OK, it's going to be Washington or New York,' and they said St. Pete," Nixon said.

The index rates cities based on their nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, city services and programs, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

The non-discrimination laws category evaluates municipalities on whether discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited in employment, housing and public accommodations, and additional points can be earned by cities with single occupancy, all-gender facilities, and conversion therapy bans.

In the law enforcement category, municipalities are scored on whether the law enforcement agency has an LGBTQ+ liaison or task force, and consistency in reporting hate crimes to the FBI.

“[St. Petersburg] is a community where the LGBTQ community is celebrated, not just tolerated,” Nixon said. “And it is a part of the fabric of who we are, that our community sees the benefit of that inclusive nature. And they all celebrate it."

Nixon added there are economic benefits as well. He said St. Pete Pride in 2019 had a $62 million impact in the region.

The report points out that despite the gains made in most municipalities throughout the nation, there remains an “unacceptable patchwork of laws for LGBTQ+ people across the country.”

HRC says this reinforces the need for the federal Equality Act that would provide consistent and explicit non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service.

The report also contains an issue brief for policymakers that covers how municipalities can support transgender and non-binary individuals, as well as the types of challenges they face, ways that a city can support them, and guidance on forming an anti-transgender and non-binary violence prevention task force.

Statistics from the HRC show 2021 is the deadliest year on record for transgender people.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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