Grand Rapids strengthens equality score on national human rights report card

Mark Washington Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington announced the city received a score of 92 out of 100 on the 2020 Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index scorecard.

The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a nationwide evaluation of municipal law sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and Equality Federation Institute. It examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQIA+ individuals who live and work there.

Cities are rated based on nondiscrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on LGBTQIA+ equality.

The MEI rated Grand Rapids on 49 different criteria, as it did with 505 other municipalities across every state in the nation.

“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 organization for LBGTQIA+ individuals,” Washington said. “We celebrate our growth and remain dedicated to continued advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization and community.”

“While our score remained the same as last year, the city of Grand Rapids’ efforts to improve equality have increased,” said Stacy Stout, director of equity and engagement. “We have worked to make our existing score of 92 more solid and stronger through a number of internal efforts.”

Stout said those include but are not limited to:

  • Established Prism GR as a formal employee resource group (ERG) with the mission to advocate for employees with LGBTQIA+ identities
  • Launched LGBTQIA+ 101 Awareness training for staff and are developing a more advanced 201 training
  • Identified a formal executive sponsor, Stout, for all employee resource groups and a staff coordinator, Jordoun Eatman, from the office of equity and engagement to support all ERGs in cross-group coordination and programming implementation
  • Designated a specific staff liaison between Prism GR and the Grand Rapids Police Department Lieutenant Maureen O’Brien to support LGBTQIA+ inclusive public safety practices
  • Published a demographics statement to offer guidance to our departments on how to collect inclusive gender data that goes beyond the man and woman binary
  • Began research on expansion of city health care to be inclusive of the needs of transgender employees

The city’s commitment to equity and inclusion continues through the adoption of 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, West Michigan Local Government Latino Network and a Social Justice ERG. The city also allocated programming and professional development funding to these groups this past year.

“We are excited to deepen the meaning behind this most recent score,” said Hank Kelley, Prism GR chair. “As we approach 100 on the scorecard, we know that the next challenge will be to continue to improve the quality of the work and policies behind each section of the MEI. Prism GR members are looking forward to collaborating with the office of equity and engagement and others in the city of Grand Rapids to move the needle on LGBTQIA+ inclusion, now and in the years ahead.”

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