Grand Rapids improves national human rights equality score
Published on November 30, 2022
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The City of Grand Rapids continues to build toward its vision to be nationally recognized as an equitable and welcoming city. City Manager Mark Washington today announced the City received a score of 94 out of 100 on the 2022 Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) scorecard. That 94 score is up two points from 2021.
The MEI is a nationwide evaluation of municipal laws and policies that advance equity and equality for LGBTQI+ employees and residents. It is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Equality Federation Institute. The MEI rated Grand Rapids on 49 different criteria, as it did with 505 other municipalities across every state in the nation. Its examination looked at inclusive municipal laws, policies and services for LGBTQI+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual and affiliated identities not specified in the initialism) individuals who live and work here. The index rating is based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on LGBTQIA+ equality.
“We have improved since our initial score of 68 in 2014 and are proud of the strides we have made to be a more inclusive and welcoming organization for LBGTQIA+ individuals,” Washington said. “We celebrate our LGBTQIA+ employees and employee resource groups and are proud of their advocacy for inclusive health coverage and policy advancements centered around equity.”
Stacy Stout, director of the Office of Equity and Engagement said the MEI score is an example of the progress the City has made over the years. It aligns with the mission, values, goals and objectives contained in the City’s strategic plan.
“We have an amazing staff that works diligently to foster equity and inclusion in policy and belonging in the workplace,” she said. “In addition to striving to achieve a high score, our goal is to continuously expand and reinforce the real impacts behind the score.”
Some of that recent work includes, but is not limited to:
- The organization has continued to support and uplift LGBTQI+ employees and allies through Prism GR, the City’s employee resource group (ERG), with the mission to advocate for employees with LGBTQIA+ identities
- Formal executive sponsor role for ERGs filled by Stacy Stout and Staff Coordinator Sierra Hatfield – also from the Office of Equity and Engagement – to support ERGs in programming implementation and cross-group coordination.
- Per the recommendation of the MEI, the City initiated a formal staff liaison role between Prism GR and the Grand Rapids Police Department which is served by Grand Rapids Police Department Lieutenant Maureen O’Brien to support LGBTQIA+ inclusive public safety practices.
- Expanded usage of the City’s demographics statement that offers guidance to its departments on how to collect inclusive gender data that goes beyond the man and woman binary
- Expanded mental health coverage to be more LBGTQIA+ inclusive and supportive
- Continued advocacy and research on expansion of City healthcare to be inclusive of the needs of transgender employees
- Supported PrismGR programming such as an organizational wide celebration of Pride Month that included educational materials, celebration supplies to show pride and support, and a local shopping guide featuring LGBTQIA+ owned businesses.
- Expanded sponsorship of LGBTQIA+ community events such as the annual Pride Festival and the new Prism Awards.
In 2020, the City adopted the first administrative policy that establishes ERGs at the City and offers guidance on how to create and maintain ERG status. The City’s current ERGs include Prism GR, West Michigan Chapter of the National Association of Black Public Administrators (NFBPA), West Michigan Local Government Latino Network (WMLGHN) and a Social Justice ERG. The City also allocates programming and professional development funding to these groups.
“Prism GR is happy to see that this year's MEI score recognizes the City's continued improvements in being an inclusive and welcoming community for LGBTQIA+ people,” said Regina Pell, Prism GR chair. “While this year’s score does show steps toward a more equitable City, there is still work to be done. This score is just one of many important measures of progress in making Grand Rapids a safe and supportive community for all the people who live and work here.”