Story by Emily Gregor
For the first time cities around America have been rated based on their LGBT inclusion in their communities.
There were 137 cities rated including all 50 state capitals and the 50 largest cities (other than the capitals) according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
The test is called the Municipal Equality Index, and the data showed that despite improvements in LGBT rights many cities still are not up to par.
Despite these statistics, Des Moines scored 79 out of a possible 100 points, a score above the national average, and students at Drake University in the LGBT community seem to agree with the rating.
“I feel Des Moines’ rating above the national average is fitting, but it’s noticeable in the ranking that there’s still a ways to go,” said alumnus Ryan Price.
Price feels like he is treated well in Des Moines, but he is, “ … uncertain how much of that is because I’m in Des Moines and how much is because I’m usually on Drake’s campus.”
According to the study, smaller cities in the Midwest, Southwestern or Southern regions of our country scores tended to be lower. Junior Jared Netley has experienced feelings of this exclusion the study has highlighted first-hand.
“I grew up in a smaller town with a minority population of less than 1 percent,” Netley said. “Being gay is definitely something that makes you stand out … I never felt that I was singled out for it, but it’s definitely something you think people associate with you.”
Luckily, Netley has found a better, more supportive environment in the Des Moines area.
“Here, people just don’t care. I think it is the same as being on Drake’s campus,” Netley said.
The test rates the cities in six categories at the state, county or city level: non-discriminatory laws, relationship recognition, municipality as employer, municipal services and programs, municipality as law enforcement, and municipality’s relationship with the LGBT Community.
The main criterion of the study that Des Moines lacks is the section concerning municipality as an employer, which is weighted heaviest because the city has the power to correct it — it is not a section justifiable by population, size or other factors.
In addition to the areas of necessary growth in municipality as an employer, Price sees another way Des Moines could improve its inclusion rating.
“If churches and places of worship were welcoming to all people as well, that would help LGBT people feel included in Des Moines by leaps and bounds,” Price said.
Even though there are many improvements to be made, Des Moines is still on its way to being one of the top LGBT-inclusive communities in the nation.