In ten years since the HRC launched the Municipal Equality Index, Pittsburgh has moved from 72 to a perfect 100 score. To be fair, they did not evaluated Pittsburgh the first year. We made the leap years ago, but it is important to take a closer look at the details of our equality.
Click to learn more about the evaluation standards.
City of Pittsburgh Scores
The area that caught my attention is having a LGBTQ+ Liaison/Task Force in Police Department. Pittsburgh’s liaison position was unfilled from April 2022 until July 2023 when Public Safety Director Lee Schmidt began assigning liaisons from all of the Public Safety bureaus. I know this because I was one who brought this to the attention of the City LGBTQIA+ Commission who worked with City Council to meet with Director Schmidt.
We lost ten points on that issue alone. A big deal? Well, it is never a good thing to lose LGBTQ resources. It shouldn’t have happened given that the City had plenty of notice from the previous liaison about his departure. And when I think of incidents that spurred the #ProtectTransKids project, I can’t help but wonder what impact a liaison could have had if they had been notified of the situation by the zone officers early on?
In this era of significant attention to criminal justice reform, this is a significant error.
Still, Pittsburgh did pick up 13 flex points (extra points) and was able to maintain the total score of 100.
In all of these ‘flex’ categories, we scored 0 points.
Single-Occupancy All-Gender Facilities
City Provides Services to LGBTQ+ Youth
City Provides Services to LGBTQ+ People Experiencing Homelessness
City Tests Limits of Restrictive State Law
Not all cities are created equal so in some cases there are county and state aspects. One example is single-occupancy facilities. The City wants to take action, but it requires work by the County Health Department and the Commonwealth to address plumbing codes, accessibility, union contracts, and more. This illustrates why LGBTQ competency must cut across all levels of government. And why we the public need to understand what level of government has specific powers.
You can read more about scoring at the Municipal Equality Index website, but one important thing to note here is that 100 is the highest possible score, even if a city collects more points for the extra credit. I think that’s fair. It is unfair that a City doing everything possible to meet the base criteria comes up short against a more powerful City with lots of the flex points.
The County and State Scores
This index does look at the county and state factors, although they are not rated. This is where something significant caught my eye – the County received 0 out of 5 possible points for having a Human Relations Commission, a body that was established in 2009 with significant work from the LGBTQ Community. I’m unclear why that body wasn’t sufficient to meet the standard, so I took a deep dive into the meeting minutes and see the body has struggled to meet. In addition, the County failed to get two points because the existing non-discrimination ordinance has no enforcement componeent. Complaints are investigated either by the City or State Commissions.
Also, the County missed points because there are no protections for youth against conversion therapy.
I hope Allegheny County Chief Executive-elect Sara Innamorato and County Council will take a close look at these scores. The County HRC is part of our government and needs to be addressed so it can fulfill its mission. I don’t recognize a single name on current Commission. It is a big County, but … no one?
The Commonwealth (State) failed to secure points for Single-Occupancy All-Gender Facilities. Again, the County and State were measured on their role in municipal policies.
Other Municipalities in Pennsylvania
Allentown – 96
Erie – 100
Harrisburg – 100
New Hope – 90
Philadelphia – 100
Pittsburgh – 100
Reading – 91
State College – 100
Wilkes-Barre – 82
This index is far from perfect, but it can be a useful tool to examine municipal equality issues. After all, Pittsburgh has been batting 100 for years, but still ranks among the lowest in terms of LGBTQ population.
It also reinforces the value of the LGBTQIA+ Commission, a body that also noticed some of the gaps and took steps to address them. Imperfectly, but still that’s why these advisory bodies exist – to improve municipal government.
Pittsburgh has an unfortunate tendency to rest of our unexamined laurels. We love being listed, but I’d like to see Pittsburgh focusing on new territory as well as shoring up long-standing supports.
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