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Report: Milwaukee Ranks High for LGBT Equality


A new report says Milwaukee ranks in the top 25 percent of cities nationwide with a good municipal relationship with its LGBT community, supporting and serving its gay and lesbian residents and workers.That's according to the gay-rights organization Human Rights Campaign, which recently released its Municipal Equality Index report. The MEI measures how inclusive a municipality's laws, policies, and services are of LGBT people living and working there.

The report suggests Milwaukee is part of a trend in which municipalities support equality for LGBT people, "even where states and the federal government have failed to do so." While Milwaukee rates well in the index, gay marriage was banned in Wisconsin by a constitutional amendment through popular vote in 2006.

This year's report measured 291 cities across the country, including Milwaukee, Madison and Green Bay. Milwaukee scored high on the index with a final score of 91 out of 100 points.

But Milwaukee was beat out by Madison, with a perfect score. That places Madison among the top 10 percent of municipalities measured. In contrast, Green Bay scored a 48.

The report scores cities based on criteria such as non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition, offering municipal jobs and services to LGBT people, accurate reporting of hate crimes against LGBT people, and city leadership's relationship with the LGBT community.

It also awards bonus points for certain conditions, which may not have been available options for certain cities.

Milwaukee got all possible points for prohibiting discrimination against LGBT individuals in terms of employment and housing. Wisconsin has banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, but not gender identity.

Milwaukee also received full points for Wisconsin having a domestic partnership registry, as well as having a respectful relationship between the Milwaukee police department and the LGBT community. This includes having a police liaison or task force to the LGBT community and reporting 2011 hate crime statistics to the FBI.

The city also got bonus points as a good place for LGBT people to work and for offering services to vulnerable populations of the LGBT community.

But the report says Milwaukee has work to do in other areas. The city lacks an LGBT liaison in the mayor's office, and the report suggests Milwaukee leaders can improve on their public statements on LGBT equality.

Additionally, the city offers no benefits for legal dependents of same-sex partners nor does it offer equivalent family leave for LGBT employees. It also does not have an ordinance requiring city contractors to offer equal benefits to employees with same-sex partners.

While the report gave points for Milwaukee County's policies against bullying based on gender identity, the city lost points for not having such policies based on sexual orientation.

But the city did get bonus points for engaging the LGBT community and being overall pro-equality despite Wisconsin's prohibition of gay marriage.

Statewide, Wisconsin elected Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate in 2012, making her the country's first openly gay Senator. The state also extended limited rights for domestic partnerships in 2009, but the Wisconsin Supreme Court will decide whether to strike down parts of that law by next summer.