Virginia Beach Recognized as One of the Best U.S. Cities for Equality

City earns perfect score on Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index for third year in a row.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

​Virginia Beach is among the best municipalities across the country for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) equality according to national civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign.

The annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a nationwide benchmarking tool developed by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for understanding how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of the LGBTQ people who live and work there. The organization reviews the policies, laws and services of 506 municipalities across the nation and considers 100 to be a perfect score, but municipalities are able to receive flex points allowing for a potential raw score of up to 122. The HRC scored 11 cities in Virginia, five of which are located in Hampton Roads. Virginia Beach's 2022 raw score was once again the highest in the state at 111. This marks the third consecutive year that Virginia Beach has earned a raw score above 100. Nationwide, about 120 cities scored a 100 or better and the average score was a 69.

In the first year of the MEI (2011), Virginia Beach scored only a 17. After the City received a score of 50 on the index in 2018, City leadership appointed an LGBTQ+ liaison to the city manager to review City policies and services, organize training and implement strategies to ensure inclusivity for LGBTQ+ individuals. Since then, the City has worked to create or change policies and ordinances designed to increase the visibility of services for LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as develop programs to engage and support the community. These efforts have proven to be successful – Virginia Beach's score in 2019 improved to a 77 and the City earned a perfect score for the first time in 2020 and has maintained it ever since.

"While we're pleased to have performed so well on the Municipal Equality Index again this year, there's always more that we can do to make Virginia Beach a more welcoming environment not just for the LGBTQIA community, but for everyone," said Anna Elias Perez, LGBTQ+ liaison to the city manager. "In 2023, we hope to maintain our perfect score and provide new opportunities for community connections, programs and learning opportunities for our residents, visitors and workforce."

The MEI serves as a guide to help local governments further equality, but also as a resource for companies looking to expand into areas that are actively fostering inclusion. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and city leadership's public position on equality.

The 506 cities rated as a part of the MEI include 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.

To review the full report and each individual city's score, visit hrc.org/resources/municipal-equality-index.

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