LGBTQ South Florida

No. 1: Miami Beach scores most points in HRC’s LGBT 2014 Municipal Equality Index

Businessman Thomas Barker and Whitney Lovell of HRC in April present Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine with award celebrating the city’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index ranking.
Businessman Thomas Barker and Whitney Lovell of HRC in April present Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine with award celebrating the city’s 2013 Municipal Equality Index ranking. Miami Herald File

Miami Beach scored higher this year than any other U.S. municipality for LGBT inclusiveness, according to a 2014 report released Wednesday by HRC, the nation’s largest LGBT-rights group.

“The scorecards are up and Miami Beach has the highest raw score in the country,” said First Assistant City Attorney Rob Rosenwald, who provides counsel to the city’s GLBT Business Enhancement Committee.

In 2014, LGBT leaders nationally lauded the Beach for speaking up in court against Florida’s same-sex marriage ban and enacting transgender-inclusive health insurance.

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on Wednesday announced that Miami Beach scored a perfect 100 on the standard rankings, and picked up another 18 bonus points for extras including services to LGBT youth, elderly and homeless, and having openly LGBT city leaders.

The total 118 points makes Miami Beach No. 1, Rosenwald said.

“The City of Miami Beach is where diverse people from the United States and around the world come to live, work, and play. There are many reasons why people come here, but few are more important than the vibrancy and visibility of our LGBT community,” Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said in a statement. “Today, Miami Beach is the leading government voice for marriage equality in Florida. We are the only party — public or private — to appear in every single Florida lawsuit challenging the state’s right to continue to deny our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters the right to wed.”

Rosenwald said Miami Beach moved from second in 2013 to No. 1 in 2014. “Last year the city of Miami Beach scored second in the nation, only behind the city of Philadelphia,” Rosenwald said. “This year, Philadelphia and San Francisco tied for second and third with 116 points each.”

Despite awarding bonus points, HRC states no city can have an official score greater than 100 in its third-annual Municipal Equality Index.

In Florida, three other cities have 100-point scores, Orlando, St. Petersburg and Wilton Manors. But with bonus points, Orlando receives only a total of 101; St. Pete 103, Wilton Manors 105.

Florida’s lowest ranked scores were Port St. Lucie (14), Jacksonville (20) and Cape Coral (22).

This year, HRC chose to rank 353 municipalities.

For the second year in a row, Miami Beach self-submitted its results to HRC, which uses a formula that overlooks its top-ranked municipality.

Included in HRC’s formula: the 50 state capitals, 200 largest U.S. cities, the four largest cities in each state, cities that were home to a state’s largest university and 75 cities with the highest percentage of same-sex couples. In addition to Miami Beach, three other cities self-submitted, according to the HRC report.

Earlier this year, HRC amended its 2013 MEI report and declared Miami Beach second-highest scoring municipality in the nation. Just before Miami Beach Gay Pride in April, an HRC representative came to South Florida and presented an award to Mayor Levine.

“We do all of these things because it is the right thing to do. But equality is also good for us financially,” Levine said. “We attract the best investment, a skilled and diverse workforce, and the most cosmopolitan visitors to our city.”

In a news release Wednesday, HRC did not even mention Miami Beach or its No. 1 ranking.

“Vying for a higher score to outshine each other, this year’s champion is St. Petersburg who beat Tampa with a perfect 100 (out of 100). Along with Orlando and Wilton Manors, this is the first time cities in Florida have ever earned the perfect score. Tampa comes in with a very respectable 97,” according to an email from Stephen Peters, HRC’s national press secretary.

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