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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE: Participants at the Courthouse Green in Fort Wayne during a vigil for dead and wounded LGBT community members who were attacked while celebrating Pride at an Orlando, Florida., night club.

Friday, October 12, 2018 1:00 am

City's LGBTQ efforts slammed

Foundation gives lower score than it did 2 years ago

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Municipal Equality Index scores

Bloomington 100
Indianapolis 89
Evansville 82
South Bend 70
Muncie 69
Hammond 59
Terre Haute 52
West Lafayette 45
Fort Wayne 40

Fort Wayne isn't making gains in protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer population, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced Thursday.

After two years of stagnant scores, the Summit City fell from 42 to 40 of 100 possible points on the foundation's seventh annual Municipal Equality Index.

The index is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy. It was conducted in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute.

Of the 506 cities rated nationwide, nine were in Indiana.

The Hoosier State boasted an average score of 67, exceeding the national average of 58.

Bloomington again bested the rest in Indiana with 100 points while Fort Wayne earned the lowest score.

Nikki Fultz, Fort Wayne Pride director, said in an email the city's score saddens her.

She has watched support of Fort Wayne Pride grow over the years from straight allies, businesses and city departments and feels like her family has been accepted as well, she said.

“Sadly, that is not the case for all LGBTQ+ members of our city,” she said. “Fort Wayne lacks nondiscrimination policies and resources for the LGBTQ+ community. This disconnect is something I hear about quite frequently, especially when people first move to the city or are considering taking a job here. If Fort Wayne wants to fulfill its vision of bringing talented people to our city, it's time to reflect that in the policies and ordinances that are in place. We need to be seen as a city that welcomes all people!”

Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich issued a statement indicating the city is committed to ensuring the community is inviting for all residents and making everyone feel valued and appreciated.

“Fort Wayne is recognized as a welcoming and inclusive city,” according to the statement.

“We take that role seriously and work each day to support equality and champion our community as an attractive place to live, work and play,” Perlich added.

The Human Rights Campaign's analysis suggests Fort Wayne can do more. It fell short on criteria in each of the five categories studied – non-discrimination laws, municipality as employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality issues.

Fort Wayne collected points for non-discrimination in city employment; reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI, leadership's public position on LGBTQ equality; and non-discrimination laws in the areas of employment and public accommodations, among other metrics.

It received zero points on multiple measures, including transgender-inclusive health care benefits; inclusive workplace; leadership's pro-equality legislative or policy efforts; and LGBTQ liaison in the city executive's office and police department.

Nationwide, 78 cities earned perfect scores, which have increased “by more than sevenfold” since the index began in 2012, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It said at least 25 million people live in cities with more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.

“Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called 'conversion therapy,' increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life,” Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign president, said in a statement.

Visit www.hrc.org/mei for the full report.

asloboda@jg.net