The City of Birmingham was awarded the highest possible score from the Human Rights Campaign in its Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for 2022, which rewards scores for cities based on factors such as providing transgender-inclusive health care benefits and employing an “LGBTQ+ Liaison” among other criteria.
HRC is the largest LGBTQ lobbying organization in the country. It operates the HRC Political Action Committee, which donated over $281,000 to Democratic candidates in 2022, including U.S. Reps. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), and others.
HRC advocates for abortion and opposes state laws that prevent children from receiving hormone blockers and sex change surgeries, limit female collegiate sports to biological females and keep biological males from using female bathrooms.
It even issued a “state of emergency” in June in response to what it claims is a hostile political climate for LGBTQ people.
In 2022, HRC fired its president Alphonso David after he was accused of advising former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in response to sexual harassment allegations. David then accused the organization of racial bias. He filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination but claimed to have resolved the case earlier this year.
During his most recent reelection, the organization endorsed Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham), the state’s only open homosexual lawmaker, for reelection in 2022.
According to HRC’s website, the MEI “examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ+ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.”
Cities receive a score from 0 to 100, totaling scores from five categories, such as nondiscrimination laws and city employment. Cities earn points by meeting specific criteria established by the HRC. Cities can also earn “flex points” that operate as bonuses but do not permit municipalities to exceed 100.
No other municipality in Alabama scored higher than 40. Nevertheless, the HRC awarded Birmingham a perfect score in all five categories, totaling 100.
“Since 2018 Birmingham has had the proud distinction of having a perfect 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index,” read the City of Birmingham’s website. “In 2019, Birmingham also achieved MEI ‘All-Star’ status—the only Alabama city to do so—for scoring 100% despite being in a state with no LGBTQ-inclusive state-level protections.”
So why did HRC award Birmingham such a high score?
The City passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in 2017, prohibiting discrimination based on “real or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or familial status.”
The ordinance defines “gender identity” as: “The actual or perceived gender-related identity, expression, appearance, or mannerisms or other gender-related characteristics of an individual, regardless of the individual’s designated sex at birth.”
It also provided an exception for affirmative action plans.
The HRC awarded Birmingham seven points for nondiscrimination in city employment and three for nondiscrimination in city contractors. It also claimed Birmingham had “transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits,” but it does not specify what this means.
In 2018, Birmingham created a 15-member Human Rights Commission to investigate ordinance violations. The mayor also has a 28-member LGBTQ Advisory Board.
Woodfin appointed Josh Coleman as the City’s first “LGBTQ+ Liaison” that year. According to Coleman’s Twitter profile, he is a member of the Democratic Party and the president of Central Alabama Pride. As the liaison, Coleman makes an annual salary of $50,000.
Heather Campbell serves as the LGBTQ+ Liaison for the Birmingham Police Department. Her annual salary is unclear.
For the commission, Birmingham received five points from the HRC. The City received another five points for having the liaison position and ten points for the police liaison.
The City also received points for providing “LGBTQ+ services for youth” and other demographics. Though not explicitly cited, the City of Birmingham’s Magic City Acceptance Academy is a publicly-funded charter school designed to foster an “LGBTQ-affirming learning environment” that opened in 2021.
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