by Kevin Allman
Members of the Baton Rouge LGBT community are raising questions about the “2012 Municipal Equality Index,” a new report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The HRC, the country’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, gathered data on more than 100 U.S. metro areas on their laws and policies regarding gays and lesbians, and presented each city with a score from 0 to 100. Only two cities in Louisiana were evaluated, and Baton Rouge scored 2 out of 100 — one of the worst scores in the nation. (In contrast, New Orleans received a 79, while Jackson, Miss. got an 8 — six points higher than Baton Rouge.)
“I think our score should have been about a 12 — but a 12 is still not good,” Bruce Parker, the managing director of Equality for Louisiana, said this morning. “The mayor [Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden] has an executive order protecting [city] employees based on sexual orientation.” Parker also said Holden has a good working relationship with the Red Stick gay community, and that while a state representative, Holden had voted against the constitutional amendment that banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions in Louisiana.
Matthew Patterson, chair of the education and advocacy committee for Baton Rouge’s Capital City Alliance, said the HRC had not contacted his group for data. Patterson also questioned the group’s findings, pointing out the mayor’s non-discrimination order (which didn’t seem to affect the survey numbers) but said, “We certainly don’t have substantive legal protection in place.”
As for how numbers like those of the HRC affect the business world, Patterson said, “The sheer number of Fortune 500 companies who have passed protection is amazing. I think the data is clear across the country — cities that are more open, it affects the economy in really positive ways. These things aren’t just about protecting one or two people.”
A note in the report said, "All cities rated were provided their scorecard in advance of publication
and given the opportunity to submit revisions," but to whom the results were provided isn't spelled out. The authors of the Municipal Equality Index hadn’t returned an email request for comment on their methodology by press time. Go here to read and download a copy of the report.