Columbia earns perfect score for city's LGBTQ laws and policies

1 month 1 week 6 days ago Wednesday, December 05 2018 Dec 5, 2018 Wednesday, December 05, 2018 5:04:00 PM CST December 05, 2018 in News
By: Celine Pence, KOMU 8 Reporter
loading

COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia earned a perfect score and an all-star rating for the second year in a row for the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index.

The Human Rights Campaign is the country's largest LGBTQ civil rights organization. The MEI is a yearly, nationwide evaluation of city law and services. It rates cities on non-discrimination laws, the city as an employer, city services, law enforcement and leadership on LGTBQ equality,

"We understand that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, so we want to make sure that people are protected here," said the city's public communications specialist Sara Humm. "I think the city of Columbia, Missouri is really making strides to really make sure everybody in our community really feels welcome even if that's not something that's happening everywhere in the country."

Columbia was one of 78 cities that earned a perfect score and one of 46 cities that earned an all-star rating, of 506 total cities scored. The all-star rating refers to cities that scored above 85 points despite being in states with no state-level protection for the LGBTQ community.

"To this date, Missouri is one of a handful of states that do not have statewide protections for LGTBQ peers, and I was not content to wait for Jeff City or the federal government to guarantee these rights," said Mayor Brian Treece. "I'm very proud of the steps Columbia has taken over the past two years to make sure that we are a city that welcomes everyone."

Columbia has made considerable improvements in just the past few years. In 2015, the city received a score of 74. In 2016, it was 92, and has been 100 the past two years. Treece, who took office in 2016, said he made inclusivity a priority.

"When I ran for mayor three years ago, it was with a goal of making Columbia one of the most open, honest and transparent governments in the state," he said. "Having LGBTQ inclusive laws helped attract the best residents, employees and businesses that want to relocate to Columbia."

Treece said the Human Rights Campaign has provided a roadmap for new city efforts. In addition to having laws for fair employment and housing, Columbia also created LGBTQ liaisons in the city manager's office and police department, and appointment members of the LGBTQ community to boards and commissions.

"It's very important to me to make sure that we have a democracy that works for everybody and to make sure the policies that we are adopting take into consideration everybody's needs," Treece said.

St. Louis was the only other city in Missouri to get a perfect score, of the 8 cities scored. Jefferson City got a 20, Springfield got a 19, and Cape Girardeau got a 0.

Dion Wisniewski sees issues with the scores in other cities. He's the director of The Center Project, a community center for mid-Missourians aiming to provide education, resources and general support to the LGBTQ and ally community.

"I think overall it's just disheartening to see cities like Springfield, Cape Girardeau, some of the larger cities in the state that don't have great scores," Wisniewski said. "Especially in 2018, it's really time for these commissions or these city councils to take the time to write policies that are inclusive for all of their members."

Wisniewski said The Center Project mainly does work in Columbia, but aims to reach all across Boone County. He sees the differences in Columbia and Jefferson City.

"I do think that Columbia is definitely more progressive than Jefferson City, and it's somewhat frustrating to see a city that's so close have a score that's so drastically different than Columbia," he said.

Jefferson City is making changes, though. The city's score was 0 last year, so it's up 20 points.

Wisniewski said while more work can be done in Columbia, he hopes the community and city can use this momentum to challenge state laws.

"I think we can use that energy or city council can use that energy to put pressure on our local legislatures that represent us at the state level to really start pushing through these policies to make Missouri welcoming in general, because overall it's really not," he said.

Treece, the city council, the city's Human Rights Commission and city staff continuously work together toward the goal of building an inclusive community. Andrea Waner, the Human Rights Commission Chair, believes the city always has more work to do.

"As long as there's oppression in place, there's something that we need to be doing about it," she said. "I'm really proud to live in Columbia and I'm really proud of the work we've done thus far. But, I'm completely acknowledging the fact that there's still a lot of work to be done."

Humm said Columbia is a melting pot of people, from college students to retirees. The city will continue its efforts to make it a safe place where community members are embraced.

"It's more than just us saying that anyone is welcome here, because just because we say that people are welcome doesn't mean they feel welcomed. So that's really our goal, is to make sure we are making policies and making laws that protect people and are making people feel they are a part of our community."

For more information about the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index, visit its website.

More News

Grid
List
COLUMBIA - Animal control is urging pet owners to keep their pets inside or in a safe shelter during the... More >>
1 hour ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 5:02:00 PM CST January 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Salvation Army is providing food assistance for furloughed federal workers through their food pantry. Food assistance is... More >>
2 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 3:27:00 PM CST January 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A man already facing charges of sexual misconduct for an incident in May 2018 now faces an additional... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 1:56:52 PM CST January 18, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Corrections and Governor Parson announced Friday a new plan to address staffing shortages... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 1:50:00 PM CST January 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - An individual has been pronounced dead after a house fire Thursday night at 1203 Lakeview Avenue. Firefighters... More >>
4 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 1:46:00 PM CST January 18, 2019 in Top Stories
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri congressman has apologized for yelling "go back to Puerto Rico" at Democrats on the... More >>
6 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 12:08:00 PM CST January 18, 2019 in News
KINGDOM CITY - Callaway County deputies arrested a juvenile in connection to a threat made against students at North Callaway... More >>
7 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 10:30:00 AM CST January 18, 2019 in News
HILLSBORO (AP) — An eastern Missouri police chief has resigned and an officer has been terminated amid an investigation into... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 9:45:00 AM CST January 18, 2019 in News
HARRISONVILLE (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that a former Missouri high school coach had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a... More >>
8 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 9:35:00 AM CST January 18, 2019 in News
MONITEAU COUNTY - Deputies arrested a Tipton man Thursday in connection with a pair of burglaries from around the county.... More >>
9 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 8:56:00 AM CST January 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – Across Mid-Missouri, MoDOT crews are making final preparations to ensure they are ready to take on this weekend’s... More >>
10 hours ago Friday, January 18 2019 Jan 18, 2019 Friday, January 18, 2019 7:24:00 AM CST January 18, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Columbia Public Works department is preparing for the winter storm that is set to hit this weekend.... More >>
20 hours ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 10:01:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A man has been charged with child endangerment after his 14-month-old son arrived unresponsive at a... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 6:04:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - The Route AC (Grindstone Parkway) bridge of U.S. Highway 63 will close for 60 days this summer. MoDOT... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 5:34:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
(CNN) -- The State Department is ordering its staff back to work next week, pledging that it will find the... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 5:12:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA – The Columbia Police Department acknowledged Thursday that the homicide may be connected to an early morning homicide in... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 5:01:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A St. Louis newscaster has apologized for what he called an unintentional racial slur while referencing... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:30:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 25-year-old Kansas City man is charged with murder in the shooting death of a... More >>
1 day ago Thursday, January 17 2019 Jan 17, 2019 Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:11:00 PM CST January 17, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 37°
7pm 36°
8pm 35°
9pm 34°
10pm 34°