New Jersey municipalities are ahead of the national curve when it comes to inclusion and equality for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer citizens, a new study has found.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in partnership with the Equality Foundation, released its 11th annual Municipal Equality Index on Nov. 30, scoring LGBTQ+ equality in municipal policies, laws and services in 506 American cities, including a dozen in New Jersey.
The average New Jersey score was 86 out of 100 possible points, well ahead of the national average of 68. Five Garden State municipalities – Hoboken, Jersey City, Lambertville, Montclair and Princeton – were among the 120 American cities to earn perfect scores.
"LGBTQ+ people deserve to feel at home wherever they live," said U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ). "As LGBTQ+ Americans face ongoing prejudice and hate because of who they are and who they love, I’m proud to see New Jersey’s municipalities earning recognition for creating inclusive, welcoming communities. To live up to our ideals of liberty, justice and equality, we must ensure the rights, safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ people are protected everywhere."
Here’s how the 12 scored New Jersey municipalities fared:
Asbury Park: 80/100
Jersey City: 100/100
New Brunswick: 67/100
Ocean Grove (Neptune): 89/100
"It is indeed wonderful to see how well New Jersey scored overall in the HRC Index and (we're) especially proud of Princeton's perfect score as we hope our LGBTQIA safe-space and the services we provide herein helped achieve that inspirational benchmark in some small measure," said Robt Martin Seda-Schreiber, chief activist for the Bayard Rustin Center of Social Justice, which has been in Princeton since 2018.
The index rated all 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the country, the five largest municipalities in each state, the cities of the state’s two largest public universities, the 75 municipalities with high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities that were selected by Human Rights Campaign and Equality Federation state group members and supporters, according to a news release.
Each city was rated on 49 criteria covering non-discrimination policies, as well as policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement and the city’s leadership on LGBTQ+ equality, the HRC said. The full report is available to review at https://reports.hrc.org/municipal-equality-index-2022.
2021 HRC report: How LGBT-friendly is New Jersey? See how towns shaped up
The index was released just days after the U.S. Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, which would ensure the federal recognition of any marriage between two people if the union was valid in the state where they married. While the national MEI average has climbed for the fifth consecutive year, during 2022 HRC has reported tracking more than 345 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation at the state level across the country, with more than 145 of those efforts targeting transgender and gender non-conforming people.
"We are still seeing queer 'folx' across the spectrum of identity and age facing even more violence on many different fronts, especially our transgender youth," Seda-Schreiber said in a statement. "We here at the Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice absolutely respect how far our community has come, but also realize how far we have yet to go so we must still band together to recognize, respect and love one another at all times and in all ways we can."
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: LGBTQ friendly cities in NJ score high in inclusion, equality