Phoenix earns perfect score on equality index

XXX. (Alexis Macklin/DD)
LGBT-rights supporters marched before a February nondiscrimination proposal passed, paving the way to Phoenix’s ranking as one of the most-improved cities for LGBT community rights in 2013. (Alexis Macklin/DD)

Phoenix was one of 25 cities in the nation to earn a perfect score on the Municipal Equality Index and was named one of the most-improved cities for LGBT community rights.

The Human Rights Campaign uses the Municipal Equality Index to examine the inclusiveness of cities for LGBT rights by looking at laws, policies and services offered in communities.

Phoenix was one of only eight cities in the nation without a statewide anti-discrimination law to earn a top score on the index.

“I think it’s fantastic. It’s been a long time coming,” said Claudine Wessel, a Human Rights Campaign boardmember and area representative. “HRC here in Arizona, we’ve been working for over 10 years to lay the groundwork for things like this and to lay the groundwork for equality like this.”

Human Rights Campaign legislative counsel Cathryn Oakley came to Phoenix and gave Mayor Greg Stanton an award at a press conference Tuesday for achieving a perfect score.

“It’s not just the right thing for equality, not just the right thing for the LGBT community, it’s the right thing for all Phoenicians,” Stanton said.

“I’m so excited, I can’t tell you how happy I am,” said local LGBT community advocate Bob Jacobson.

Joe Hengemuehler, ASU professor and president of the Arizona Chapter of the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, said the improvements in equal rights are good for the community and the economy.

“It’s the right thing to do on a human level, and I think it’s also the right thing to do on a business level, because as businesses consider moving to Arizona, I’d have to imagine they would want to operate in a state that is fair and inclusive to all of its potential workforce,” Hengemuehler said.

Dayna Reed, who owns gallery and boutique GreenHaus on Roosevelt Row with her wife, said that she is happy Phoenix earned a perfect score on the Municipal Equality Index.

“It makes me happy that I live here as opposed to anywhere else in Arizona,” Reed said.

Jacobson said it is important for employers and business owners to see that Phoenix is open to all people.

“It’s important for corporations to know it’s a welcoming state to bring business to,” Jacobson said. “Next we’ve got to get Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and everywhere else up there.”

In 2012, Phoenix earned a score of 70 on the Municipal Equality Index, and in 2013, it earned a 100.

Wessel said the increase in score is mostly because of the leadership of government and community members.

“Truly, I think a lot of it is the work that has been done and having the right people in the right place, the right people in the leadership roles that we need,” she said.

Wessel said scoring 100 on the index is a major step for Phoenix, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“The bar is going to get raised next year, so there’s more work to be done,” Wessel said.

Reed said the index was exciting because it showed the progress that Phoenix is making to become an all-inclusive community.

“I would love to see equal rights as far as benefits for city employees, marriage benefits and more,” Reed said. “We have a long way to go, but the momentum is happening now.”

Contact the reporter at cacoope6@asu.edu

Correction: Nov. 30, 2013

Joe Hengemuehler is the president of the Arizona Chapter of The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. A previous version of this article incorrectly stated his position.