Pittsburgh: Not So Equal After All

Pittsburgh received 72 out of 100 possible points on a recent national survey of municipal equality released by the Human Rights Campaign.  The city was not ranked in 2012. Marriage equality Peduto pittsburgh equality

The index was divided into 6 categories: non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and relationship with the LGBT community.

Pittsburgh received perfect scores in non-discrimination laws (18 out of 18) and relationship recognition (12 out of 12.) What’s interesting is that Pittsburgh did *not* receive credit for gender identity protections – even though the City Human Relations Ordinance was modified in 1997 to include gender identity. For the purpose the survey, the City received credit for being under the protection of the countywide protections.  I asked the HRC to clarify, but have received no response.

As an employer, the City received less than 50% of the possible score – once again, repeatedly penalized for a lack of coverage and recognition of transgender employees in areas including health insurance coverage. And again under municipal services, the lack of enumerated protections for transgender students in the public school system cost us points. Perhaps most poignant, the City took a serious hit for its lack of a relationship with the LGBT community – scoring only 3 out of 8 points.

I urge you to take a closer look at the .pdf to better understand how the points were allotted and what the HRC was measuring.

What’s interesting to me is that the organization lays out clear expectations of how equality is measured on a municipal level – it’s not about marriage equality and hate crimes or other issues that are in the province of different levels of government. It is clear that there are multiple areas where Pittsburgh does not measure up  – even if you quibble about a point here and there – and that we have been resting on our laurels for too long. Yes, we had incredible progress in the 1990’s with domestic partner benefits and nondiscrimination ordinances, but it is time to move into the 21st century.

72 out of 100 is not acceptable. It is stagnant and reflects the current Administration’s ongoing deflection approach – distract us by jumping into marriage equality debates while the City collapses. It isn’t that these issues aren’t important – they just aren’t the best investment of municipal leadership efforts. Clearly.

72 out of 100 requires us to benchmark against other similar sized cities and determine what are the best practices based on data, to create policy not play politics.

Before the document was released, I submitted a proposal to Talent-City around these issues. My suggestion was based on the 2012 survey which did not include Pittsburgh because the number of LGBTQ people living in the City was not significant enough to put us in the top three most populous LGBTQ regions. The 2013 survey included the top 3 most populated municipalities.

I submitted the proposal because I genuinely believe Pittsburgh can make significant strides and that it has an ethical obligation to do given the refusal of State Government to protect LGBTQ residents. It also makes good fiscal and economic sense.

But a piecemeal approach is not the solution – that’s regressive policy-making when sleight of hand was required to create change. If Pittsburgh wants to be a World Class City, we need a thoughtful plan to address the municipal equality issues.


We can certainly do better on issues impact the transgender community.

Other scores to note:

Allentown – 50

Harrisburg – 76

New Hope – 89

Philadelphia – 100

State College – 63

To me, this reinforces a new meme: Philadelphia with Alabama everywhere else. Western Pennsylvania has few laurels to rest upon and not for a lack of trying by dedicated progressives and community members.

But let’s look further

Cleveland – 83

Cincinnati – 90

Columbus – 100

Morgantown – 57

Buffalo – 57

Rochester – 98

Baltimore – 100

Detroit – 72

You get the point. This is not a perfect tool to assess equality and it is not comprehensive enough to capture “liveability” by any stretch. But it is useful to start a dialogue about the impact of municipal efforts to address equality in the past 20 years – bear in mind that most of what Pittsburgh accomplished took place in the 1990’s with very little since then.

Dr. Nancy Polikoff explores many of these issues – what becomes of same-sex couples and families who won’t marry when it is legalized in Pennsylvania?

A Pew study from last spring showed that 30% of gay men and 33% of lesbians had not told their mother that they were gay; 47% of gay men and 55% of lesbians had not told their father.  About 1/5 of each group said they did not do so because the parent would not be accepting. So what does this mean for marriage?  Few people marry in secret, and it is the very public nature of the act of marrying that seems to matter so much to same-sex couples who want to marry.  My hypothesis is that people who are not out to the parents are going to be less likely to marry.

Some municipalities do away with domestic partnerships and others do not. It is part of the post-DOMA slippery slope toward equality and it is key that leaders recognize that marriage does not solve all problems. I hope Pittsburgh will wrestle with these issues now and create a stronger, healthier community for LGBTQ residents.


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