LGBTQ+ equality — How does your NJ town score?
As a whole, towns and cities in New Jersey are doing a better job supporting and serving LGBTQ+ people than municipalities in other states, according to the 10th edition of an annual assessment.
In a nationwide index released by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and The Equality Federation, perfect scores of 100 were achieved by three of the 12 New Jersey municipalities that were assessed. Another five landed a score in the 84 to 98 range, based on how their policies, laws and services support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals.
New Jersey's 12 assessed cities earned an average score of 85, which is significantly higher than the national average of 67.
"Cities in the state of New Jersey are outperforming many across the country," said Colin Kutney, HRC's associate director of state and municipal programs.
Nationwide, 110 cities earned the highest score of 100, up from just 11 in 2012.
Jersey City, Montclair, and Princeton earned 100 points across the 49 criteria that examined a municipality's non-discrimination laws; the municipality as an employer; municipal services; law enforcement; and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.
According to the index, leadership in these municipalities prioritize LGBTQ+ issues, and the municipalities have LGBTQ+ liaisons in their police departments and city executives' offices.
"They also passed ordinances that require single-user restrooms to be for all genders," Kutney said. "This is especially important for transgender and non-binary people to feel safe, but it also helps everyone by creating more comfortable and accessible options for all."
Montclair made New Jersey's biggest leap score-wise in 2021, moving from 78 to a perfect 100.
"The city updated its city non-discrimination policy to include protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, and passed an ordinance requiring businesses that contract with the city to do the same," Kutney said. "They also greatly expanded support for LGBTQ+ youth services."
Not perfect yet
Scores for the other New Jersey municipalities assessed by the Municipal Equality Index are below. Three municipalities — New Brunswick, Paterson, and Newark — scored at or below the national average.
- Asbury Park: 84
- Elizabeth: 71
- Hoboken: 93
- Lambertville: 98
- New Brunswick: 67
- Newark: 61
- Ocean Grove (Neptune): 89
- Paterson: 62
- Trenton: 95
These municipalities miss the mark on one or more of the index's priorities. For example, Newark and New Brunswick have no LGBTQ+ police liaison or task force, according to the assessment, and don't include gender identity in their non-discrimination laws for city employment.
The index in 2021 looked at 506 cities across the country. Municipalities interested in being rated can visit this link.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.