The City of Portland is proud to announce that it earned six extra points this year on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Municipal Equality Index (MEI), with a total score of 86, the highest score in Maine, and an increase of 11 points since 2015.
The HRC announced the results of the MEI on Monday, October 8. The MEI is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy and services. The 2018 MEI evolved dramatically this year, and included more stringent requirements.
“While there are always more things we can work on, I’m so very proud of our score this year and our ability to earn six extra points thanks to the work of our Workforce Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, Mandy Levine,” said Jon Jennings, City Manager. “She has spent a considerable amount of time making sure our policies and benefits are inclusive to the people we employ and serve. I’d also like to thank the Mayor and the Portland City Council for its longstanding and steadfast commitment to LGBTQ equality.”
“In the past three years, from providing health benefits for transgender employees to creating general neutral bathrooms, the City of Portland has taken important steps that have made us more inclusive,” said Mayor Ethan Strimling. “I am very proud of our accomplishments in this area and I look forward to our continuing progress. Full equality is the goal, indeed it is the only option, and I am confident we will get there.”
The City's increased MEI Index score was due in part to the City's passage of the All-Gender Single-Occupancy Restroom Policy. As was mentioned in Mayor Ethan Strimling’s State of the City Address, City Manager Jon Jennings set forth the new policy on July 19, 2018. The policy requires all single-occupancy restrooms in any City owned building or facility to be designated as all-gender for individual, family, or assisted use to be used by individuals of any gender. The City recognizes that all-gender restrooms create private, individual spaces that are accessible to many people, including parents caring for children, individuals with caregivers who need accompaniment, and people who are transgender or who do not conform to typically assumed gender norms.
The City believes that each individual should have the ability to use a facility that is the most comfortable and appropriate option for themselves, whether a single-occupancy restroom or a gender-designated multi-stall bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Even if a single-occupancy, gender-neutral restroom is available, individuals maintain the right to use the restroom and other gender-segregated facilities that they identify with and with which they are most comfortable.
The HRC also awarded the City additional points in part for diversity and inclusion workshops that all City staff are required to attend. During this interactive workshop, Mandy Levine guides participants through various exercises and discussions to increase their awareness of personal biases - both implicit and explicit - and to explore how these biases impact the way in which we navigate the world. Mandy additionally helps participants explore practical, proactive strategies for responding to acts of bias and prejudice in real time and examine strategies to promote respect for diversity and inclusion throughout the City.
Portland’s full scorecard can be found here.
Here is how Portland has scored since 2015:
The MEI rated 506 cities including 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, 75 municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 49 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. This year’s report also includes two new issue briefs for policymakers: Addressing the Unique Needs of LGBTQ Older People and Working Toward a Fully-Inclusive Municipal Workplace.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.