FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Matt Maisel
Director of Communications, City of Harrisburg
November 21, 2023
HARRISBURG – The City of Harrisburg has been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as Pennsylvania’s leading city when it comes to inclusive efforts for the LGBTQ+ community.
Harrisburg received a score of 96 out of 100 points on the HRC’s Municipality Equality Index. With bonus “flex points” taken into account, the City’s score jumped to 109, higher than any other city in the commonwealth.
“I am beyond proud of the work that was done in our own house to ensure LGBTQ+ issues are valued and addressed,” said Mayor Wanda R.D. Williams. “For the longest time, the City of Harrisburg has been a progressive oasis in a far more conservative Central Pennsylvania. Our government needs to better reflect our residents and this honor by the Human Rights Campaign is an important part of showing that process.”
The perfect score is the City of Harrisburg’s first in its history, and marks a stark improvement over previous years. After scoring 81 points in 2018, the City notched 69 points from 2019-21, and 71 points a year ago.
The Human Rights Campaign said in order for Harrisburg to improve its score, it needed to, among other tasks, create a LGBTQ+ liaison in both the police department and mayor’s office. Mayor Williams appointed city staff Jennifer Cameron and Deborah Robinson to those positions, respectively. Other areas which drastically improved the City’s score was reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI, and providing transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to employees.
“Previous administrations may have preached equality, but it did not manifest itself inside City Hall,” Mayor Williams said. “That is unacceptable, and in Year One of my administration, we sought to change that.”
The City of Harrisburg also gave $26,091 in Community Development Block Grant funds to the LGBT Center of Central PA.
“The LGBT Center is grateful for the work that the City of Harrisburg is doing to make this a safer and more inclusive place for LGBTQ+ people to live, work, and play,” said LGBT Center Executive Director Amanda Arbour. “We look forward to continuing to work together with the Administration towards these goals.”
The Municipality Equality Index was created by the Human Rights Campaign in 2012 to examine how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are for LGBTQ+ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.
Cities can score bonus “flex points” for outstanding services which go beyond general expectations. Among the areas where Harrisburg picked up improved scoring include:
- Single-occupancy all-gender facilities
- Protection from conversion therapy
- City employee domestic partner benefits
- Municipal services provided to LGBTQ+ youth, LGBTQ+ individuals experiencing homelessness, older adults, and the transgender community
- Openly LGBTQ+ elected officials
The ability to tout a perfect MEI score is an important tool in efforts to promote Sports & Events, Leisure, and Meetings & Conventions tourism to The Hershey Harrisburg Region, said Hershey Harrisburg Sports & Events Authority (HHSE) Executive Director Gregg Cook.
“Event organizers and travelers are looking for destinations that reflect their values, and Harrisburg’s high MEI score demonstrates its commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming destination for the LGBTQ+ community and all visitors,” Cook said.