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Baltimore receives high marks in LGBT equality study

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Baltimore was among just 25 cities in the country to receive top marks for LGBT equality in a new study of municipalities released by the Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday.

The study, known as the Municipality Equality Index, rated 291 cities across the country on a range of issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, including whether they had same-sex marriage laws, offer employment protections and track hate crimes.

The study found that "cities across the country, including in Maryland, continued to prove that municipalities will act to support equality for LGBT people, even where states and the federal government have failed to do so," according to the HRC, the country's largest LGBT rights organization.

Baltimore received a score of 100, the highest possible in the study. While it lost points for not having laws requiring contractors to provide equal benefits to LGBT employees, it made up the points by earning bonuses for engaging with the LGBT community and having openly LGBT leaders.

Cities with a score of 100 "serve as shining examples of LGBT inclusivity, with excellent policies ranging from non-discrimination laws, equal employment benefits, and cutting-edge city services," the HRC said in a statement.

Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, said in a statement that city protections are key for LGBT residents in Maryland, especially transgender residents.

“In states like Maryland, where we are still working to pass an anti-discrimination law for transgender individuals, making progress at the local level is essential and provides much-needed protections for people in those communities,” Evans said.

A total of 47 different criteria were considered in the study.

While 25 cities scored a 100 this year, only 11 did last year. The HRC compiled its report along with the Equality Federation Institute.

In addition to Baltimore, four other Maryland cities were rated: Annapolis, College Park, Frederick and Rockville. Maryland's average score was a 68 -- above the national average of 57 -- but that was raised by Baltimore's high score.

While the top 25 percent of cities nationwide scored above a 78 and half scored above a 60, Annapolis scored a 70, College Park scored a 62, Rockville scored a 58 and Frederick scored a 52.

Study backers said the results show improvements in LGBT equality across the country, not just on the coasts.

"Change is possible everywhere, and the Municipal Equality Index showcases the monumental progress we've made. In cities and towns across America, advocates are telling their stories, organizing their friends, and changing the hearts and minds of our policymakers and neighbors," said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of Equality Federation, in a statement. "We're winning equality where it matters most -- in the communities we call home."

 You can check out the full study here.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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