In 2012 the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, developed the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a nationwide scoring system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law, policy and services. The MEI assesses each city on 49-item criteria including nondiscrimination protections; policies for municipal employees; city services; law enforcement; and the city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community.
On November 19, the HRC released this year’s ratings of a cross-section of 506 cities across the nation. Seventy-eight of those cities earned perfect scores of 100 including Jersey City, Hoboken, and Princeton. However, Montclair received a score of only 71, falling below the average score of 73 for New Jersey municipalities. While this score is an improvement over the 2018 score of 58, the HRC’s evaluation indicates that there is still work to be done in Montclair, a municipality known as a diverse and inclusive town, to strengthen municipal law, policies, and services to protect the civil rights of LGBTQ people living and working in our town. The HRC’s recommended improvements include, among other, the right to inclusive healthcare for transgender employees, non-discrimination agreements for city contractors, domestic partner benefits for city employees, and municipal services for LGBTQ youth and elders in Montclair.
The Social Justice Coalition of the UUCM has launched a local campaign to urge our municipal leaders to take action to improve civil rights law and policy protecting the LGBTQ community in Montclair. Councilmember Renee Baskerville has taken the lead as the first Town Council member to endorse the UUCM campaign.
Becca Seibert [they/their/theirs], Co-Chair of Out Front, the UUCM’s sexuality and gender alliance and a campaign leader says, “It is far too easy to rest on the laurels of New Jersey’s statewide anti-discrimination laws, when we continue to need workplace protections and municipal services in our own communities. Montclair should be a leader in civil rights action and inclusion, and Montclair could and should be a model for the programs and protections we want to see in neighboring communities and in the private sector.”
UUCM Senior Co-Minister, Reverend Anya Sammler-Michael [she/her/hers], explains how the campaign aligns with the principles of Unitarian Universalism when she says, “Each of us has worth and dignity, and that worth includes our gender and our sexuality. As Unitarian Universalists we work for LGBTQ justice as a core part of who we are. Montclair could be an example for New Jersey of inclusion and equity and we are committed to seeing this work though. Our citizens deserve better.”
To learn more about the Human Right Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, and to view Montclair’s scorecard, please visit http;//www.hrc.org/mei/search/new-jersey/montclair.
For more information on the UUCM campaign, please contact UUCM Social Justice Coalition Co-Chairs Teresa DeSousa and Johanna Foster at firstname.lastname@example.org.