St. Petersburg – For the first time, St. Petersburg outranked the City of Tampa on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. St. Petersburg earned a 100% rating, up more than 50 points from a year ago. Tampa earned a respectable 97%.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told Watermark over the summer that one of his goals was to boost St. Petersburg’s ranking on the annual index, which consistently ranked St. Petersburg low in previous years. Tampa has had consistently higher rankings even before Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn took office. His predecessor, Mayor
Pam Iorio, was an advocate for LGBT rights and pushed for domestic partnership benefits for city employees in the early 2000s.
The HRC’s MEI is an annual index that assesses cities on their level of equality for the LGBT community based on nondiscrimination laws set in place, creation of domestic partnership registries, employment policies and inclusiveness of city services, among other things.
Several changes over the past year could be credited with the boosted score in St. Petersburg. The new LGBT Welcome Center created by Metro Wellness and Community Centers has specific outreach to LGBT youth, and the number of openly gay city council members jumped to three in 2013 with the elections of Darden Rice and Amy Foster.
This summer, Kriseman appointed two positions in City Hall to deal directly with the LGBT community.
Kriseman held a press conference Nov. 12 at City Hall, joined by other city officials and leaders from the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, to praise the city for its perfect score.
“Diversity, inclusion and opportunity is good for business,” Kriseman said at the news conference.
Orlando, Wilton Manors and Miami Beach are the other three cities that scored 100s.