For the first time, three Illinois cities have scored a perfect 100 in the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Municipal Index for 2022.
Joining Chicago with a 100 are the cities of Champaign and Rockford.
Most major Illinois cities listed in the index saw a marked increased score.
In its tenth year, the Municipal Equality Index is used to measure how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are for the LGBTQ community. HRC said that despite anti-LGBTQ laws being proposed across the country, the number of cities scoring 100 increased for 2022. This year, 120 cities got a perfect score compared to last year’s 110.
All three of Illinois’ 100 cities got their scores thanks to flex points, points for programs that are difficult for many cities. Most cities get flex points by having policies in defiance of restrictive state laws. In LGBTQ-friendly Illinois, they got them by going above and beyond.
Chicago got its flex points on the bases of LGBTQ elected officials. The city’s mayor Lori Lightfoot is an out lesbian and there is enough LGBTQ representation on the city council that they’ve formed their own caucus. Many of the state’s out General Assembly legislators also represent parts of the city. Rockford also got its flex points thanks to out LGBTQ officials.
Champaign’s flex points come from services for LGBTQ youth. With part of the state’s largest university, an LGBTQ community center and a supportive city leadership, the city is one of the most LGBTQ-friendly in the state.
Even in cities that didn’t score a perfect score, there were still improvements. Naperville’s has risen from less than 50 points in 2017 to more 78 this year.
“This is great news for the city of Naperville and for the local LGBTQ+ community!” said Margie Wolf, executive director of Naper Pride. “For us to go from a score of less than 50 in 2017, to 78 in just a few short years demonstrates a true commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
It’s even more impressive since some of the state’s most active anti-LGBTQ groups, such as Awake Illinois is based in the city.
Naper Pride attributed the city’s latest increase to the appointment of Dr. Geneace Williams as the city’s first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Manager, and adding transgender-inclusive benefits for city employees.
“The city council added ‘creating an inclusive community that values diversity’ to the City’s mission statement two years ago, and the increasing MEI score reflects our community’s ideals and efforts,” said Naperville City Manager Doug Krieger. “I want to thank Dr. Williams and Naper Pride for their extraordinary work in continuing to make Naperville more inclusive.”
Champaign welcomed their new perfect score.
“I’m very proud of this accomplishment, which shows the City of Champaign’s commitment to making our community as welcoming as possible to our valued LGBTQ+ residents and visitors,” said Champaign Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen. “Thanks to the commitment and leadership shown by the City Council, executive management, and staff, Champaign continues to be at the forefront in Illinois for advancing policies that are inclusive and protective of our LGBTQ+ community members.”
Champaign’s LGBTQ liaison Kris Koester said, “The City of Champaign strives to make a positive impact on the lives of our residents, visitors, and businesses. The recognition by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation through the Municipal Equality Index provides a recognition of the work we have done in the areas of diversity and inclusion. I know leadership and staff will continue to work in this area as well as social justice and human rights.”
Carbondale, home of the state’s second largest public university and in the very conservative southern tip, also saw in increase, getting above 50 for the first time with a score of 53.
State capital Springfield stayed at 70.
The full 2022 report is available here. The scores of Illinois cities are available here.