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Human Rights Campaign Grades Providence On LGBT Inclusivity

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Providence earned a 'B' grade in the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index with a final score of 81 out of 100.

The index is a survey of the laws, policies, and services of local municipalities, which are rated on the basis of their inclusivity of LGBT people who live and work in those communities.

But the scorecard doesn't capture all the positive facets at the municipal level in Providence, locals say.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said his organization's survey revealed that “municipalities are leading a quiet pro-equality transformation.”

“This year's MEI reveals that our progress this year didn't begin and end at the U.S. Supreme Court — it reached cities and towns in each and every state in this country,” Griffin said in this year's report.

Local Response

Rodney Davis, a long-time volunteer with Rhode Island Pride and that organization's outgoing board president, lauded the cooperative relationship his organization has had with the city of Providence.

“My involvement with RI Pride has given me the opportunity to work with a number of administrations in Providence, and we've seen progressive growth, not only with access to the mayor and that office,” but other city departments as well, Davis said.

Kate Monteiro, a long-time activist involved with Rhode Island Pride, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, and the former Rhode Island Alliance for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights, said the difference in the LGBT community's relationship with the municipality between now and a generation ago was “night and day.”

In the last nearly 20 years, the city of Providence has progressed by leaps and bounds ... to be a very good city for LGBT citizens and political concerns,” Monteiro said.

Involved in Rhode Island Pride since 1991, Davis praised departments outside of the mayor's office, like parks and recreation, that have helped the city's PrideFest to continue to expand. “Where there's been a need, the administration has been extremely helpful.”

“The administration works with the LGBT community in a way that, in some ways, is unremarkable,” Monteiro said. In organizing the annual PrideFest, the city “works in the same way it would work with any other arts organization.”

Davis said Rhode Island served as a model for how to change public policy. Now, “that message has to be brought to other cities and town halls,” he said.

Three other cities and regions around the Ocean State were also included in the Human Rights Campaign, including Warwick (a score of 69), Cranston (67), and Kingston (58).

Identified as an inclusive LGBT destination by publications like Travel + Leisure, Providence is also notable for electing the first openly gay mayor of a state capital, David Cicilline, who served eight years in office beginning in 2003.

Former Mayor Buddy Cianci created a liaison position to the gay and lesbian community even earlier, in the 1990s.

Evaluating Laws and Policies

In its recent survey, the Human Rights Campaign is careful to note that the municipal equality ranking does not judge the atmosphere or quality of life of a particular city, rather, “it is an evaluation of the city's laws and policies and an examination of how inclusive city services are of LGBT people,” the report says. Paradoxically, “some high-scoring cities may not feel truly welcoming for all LGBT people, and some low-scoring cities may feel more welcoming than their policies might reflect.”

Twenty-five cities received perfect scores and, evidence of the localized methodology, eight of those were located in states without same-sex marriage or statewide non-discrimination laws.

Of all those studied, 10 percent of cities scored over 96 points, and a quarter scored over 78.

The average score was 57 points with the bottom quarter of cities rating 35 or lower.

The 2013 municipal equality index rated a total 291 cities or regions, from every state in the nation, more than double the number rated in 2012.

Related Slideshow:
Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index Scorecard - Providence, RI

HRC's Municipal Equality Index (MEI) demonstrates the ways that many cities can—and do— support the LGBT people who live and work there, even where states and the federal government have failed to do so. GoLocal pulled the data from the 2012 and 2013 reports to show where progress has been made in Providence and Rhode Island.

This year's report rates a total of 291 cities from every state in the nation, representing a total population total of 77,851,822.  To see how PVD compares to other cities, download the full 2013 MEI report here and the 2012 version here.

Prev Next

Providence Non-Discrimination Laws

This category evaluates whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by the city, county, or state in areas of employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Providence grabbed all available points in this category because it is under the jurisdiction of Rhode Island state laws prohibiting discrimination on both bases of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Non-Discrimination Laws 2012 2013
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Public Accommodations    
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 18 out of 18 18 out of 18
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Providence Relationship Recognition

Because this is an evaluation of municipalities, not states, and marriage is a state-level policy, this section is weighted so that an equal number of points are awarded for marriage (or other state relationship recognition) and municipal domestic partner registries.

In 2013 Rhode Island passed landmark marriage equality legislation, cementing itself ahead of the curb in relationship recognition. However, since civil unions have been legal and available at the state level since 2011, the HRC granted the full 12 points in 2012 as well.

Relationship Recognition 2012 2013
Marriage Equality, Civil Unions, Domestic Partnerships 12 out of 12 12 out of 12
Prev Next

Providence Municipality as Employer

By offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBT employees, and by awarding contracts to fair-minded businesses, municipalities commit themselves to treating LGBT employees equally.

By the HRC's account, Providence falls in line with some best practices as an employer- ample forthright laws are on the books forbidding discrimination in city employment and ensuring domestic partner and legal dependent health benefits. However, the city falls short of ensuring equivalent family leave and affirmatively forbidding discrimination in awarding city contracts and benefits to contractors.

Municipality as Employer 2012 2013
Non-Discrimination in City Employment    
points for sexual orientation 5 out of 5 5 out of 5
points for gender identity 5 out of 5 5 out of 5
Domestic Partner Health Benefits
4 out of 4 4 out of 4
Legal Dependent Benefits
2 out of 2 2 out of 2
Equivalent Family Leave
0 out of 2 0 out of 2
City Contractor
Non-Discrimination Ordinance
points for sexual orientation 0 out of 2 0 out of 2
points for gender identity 0 out of 2 0 out of 2
City Contractor
Equal Benefits Ordinance
0 out of 4 0 out of 4
Total Score 16 out of 26 16 out of 26
Prev Next

Providence Municipal Services

This section assesses the efforts of the city to ensure LGBT constituents are included in city services and programs.

A lack of a direct liason to the LGBT community in the mayor's office hurt Providence in the municipal services category. Providence does, however, have a Human Relations Office tasked with "enforc[ing] laws of equal opportunity in the City of Providence" as well as formally enumerated anti-bullying policies in schools at the municipal level.

Furthermore, the city's services aimed directly at underserved and particularly vulnerable populations were lauded by the HRC and scored Providence an extra 2 points in this category.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
Human Rights Commission
7 out of 7 7 out of 7
LGBT Liaison in
the Mayor’s Office
0 out of 5 0 out of 5
Enumerated Anti-Bullying
School Policies
points for sexual orientation 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
points for gender identity 3 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 13 out of 18 13 out of 18
BONUS: City provides services
to particularly vulnerable
populations of the LGBT
2 Bonus Points 2 Bonus Points
Prev Next

Providence Law Enforcement

Fair enforcement of the law includes responsible reporting of hate crimes and engaging with the LGBT community in a thoughtful and respectful way.

Providence reports hate crime statistics, but their lack of a specific LGBT police liaison or task force caused an 8 point deduction from their final score.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
LGBT Police Liaison
or Task Force
0 out of 8 0 out of 8
Reported 2011 Hate Crimes
Statistics to the FBI
10 out of 10 10 out of 10
Total Score 10 out of 18 10 out of 18
Prev Next

Providence Relationship with the LGBT Community

This category measures the city leadership’s commitment to fully include the LGBT community and to advocate for full equality.

Providence was noted for it's leadership's public position on LGBT equality and particularly for a shift from 2012 to 2013 with the renewed focus on and support for marriage equality legislation through its passing. This shift was the sole driver of a higher 2013 overall score, with all 5 additional points being picked up in recognition of the city leadership's commitment to LGBT equality.  Other direct efforts to engage with the LGBT community also landed Providence 2 bonus points in both 2012 and 2013.

Municipal Services 2012 2013
Leadership’s Public Position
on LGBT Equality
3 out of 5 5 out of 5
Leadership’s Pro-Equality
Legislative or Policy Efforts
0 out of 3 3 out of 3
Total Score 3 out of 8 8 out of 8
BONUS: City engages with
the LGBT community
2 Bonus Points 2 Bonus Points
Prev Next

Total Scores

2012: 76 out of 100

2013: 81 out of 100

Categories 2012 2013
I. Non-Discrimination Laws
18 out of 18 18 out of 18
II. Relationship Recognition 12 out of 12 12 out of 12
III. Municipality as Employer 16 out of 26 16 out of 26
IV. Municipal Services 13 out of 18 13 out of 18
V. Law Enforcement 10 out of 18 10 out of 18
VI. Relationship with the LGBT Community 3 out of 8 8 out of 8
Bonus 4 points 4 points
Total Score 76 out of 100 81 out of 100



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Sammy Arizona

Then there are the views held by many (no all) conservatives penned by former mayor Steve Laffey

In one column, Laffey said he has never seen a happy homosexual.
"This is not to say there aren't any; I simply haven't seen one in my lifetime. Maybe they are all in the closet," he wrote. "All the homosexuals I've seen are sickly and decrepit, their eyes devoid of life."

In another column he wrote that pop music was turning the children of America into sissies, and criticized the singer Boy George, referring to him as "it."

"It wears girl's clothes and puts on makeup," he wrote. "When I hear it sing, 'Do you really want to hurt me, do you really want to make me cry,' I say to myself, YES, I want to punch your lights out, pal, and break your ribs."
Sammy in Arizona

Phil Paulson

Steve Laffey is a joke... a poor one at that. What's he doing these days? Probably cleaning the rooms at a bathhouse, and washing the towels.

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