How LGBTQ-Friendly Are Eight Colorado Cities?

An image from John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 film Shortbus. Additional images and more below.
File photo
An image from John Cameron Mitchell's 2006 film Shortbus. Additional images and more below.
When it comes to LGBTQ rights, all Colorado cities aren't equal.

Still, one thing is clear: Plenty of places here and beyond have a lot of room to improve.

That's among the takeaways from the latest edition of the fifth annual Municipal Equality Index, a study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that advocates for LGBTQ equality.

The report, on view below in its entirety, graded hundreds of cities across the United States from the perspective of LGBTQ rights on a scale of 0 to 100. Eight Colorado communities were included, and while none performed disastrously — the specific details are below — neither were any of them among the sixty U.S. communities to notch a perfect score.

Moreover, two Colorado places finished below the national average of 55, and three others did only a little better.

Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative council at the Human Rights Campaign and the author of the Municipal Quality Index, provides an overview.

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Human Rights Campaign
"We looked at 506 cities from around the country: big cities, small cities and pretty much everywhere in between," Oakley says. "Then we rated them on how inclusive their laws and policies are for LGBTQ people."

The report uses 44 criteria grouped under a number of major headings.

"First," Oakley continues, "are non-discrimination policies — laws at the local or state level for housing, employment and places of public accommodation. Next is how the city treats its own employees: Do employees have benefits inclusive of LGBTQ people, and are there discrimination policies in place to protect them? Third are municipal services — making sure that when the city is offering services to the community, they're inclusive of LGBTQ people."

In addition, Oakley notes, "there's also a category for law enforcement. What we're looking for first is whether the city has an LGBTQ liaison to the police department — whether there's a member of the police department whose job is to liase between the LGBTQ community and the police and to make sure the police department is educated about and competent on matters of equality. That's important, because if there are concerns in the community — if someone experiences harassment, for example — the community can voice those concerns to someone who will understand them. And we also look to see if the jurisdiction reported hate-crime statistics to the FBI."

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Human Rights Campaign
Finally, Oakley says, "we look at leadership — what leaders in the community have said about matters of equality. Have they spoken in favor of LGBTQ equality? Have they spoken against it? And also, we look at what cities are doing on matters of equality — not just whether or not they issued a pride proclamation, but from a legislative standpoint."

Regarding the scores, Oakley stresses that "this isn't a high-school math test. The average is 55, but to me, the numbers are data; they're not the story."

She notes that "some of the cities that are scoring fifty or sixty points may be doing it in states where they are fighting the odds to have any points at all, including several cities in the reddest of the red states, like Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi, had a 71, but the average score in the state was a 17. The next best city in Mississippi was Bay St. Louis, which had a 34, Southhaven had a 0, and three other cities [Starkville, Ocean Springs and Hattiesburg] got either a 2 or a 4, which is hard to do. Hate-crimes reporting is something every single community should be doing no matter what their philosophy is about LGBTQ, and we gave 12 points for that. So those aren't good scores."

What about the Colorado cities?

Continue for details about how eight cities in Colorado scored on the Municipal Equality Index, as well as more of our interview with the Human Rights Campaign's Cathryn Oakley and the complete report.