One Equal World

Olympia Gets Top Score for LGBT Help

Posted on: January 5, 2016

Image: The Pride Flag is seen flying atop the Space Needle during the Seattle Pride Parade on June 28, 2015 / The Seattle Times

Image: The Pride Flag is seen flying atop the Space Needle during the Seattle Pride Parade on June 28, 2015 / The Seattle Times

Cities in the United States were recently evaluated for their nondiscrimination laws, municipal providers, employee treatment, law-enforcement practices, and general relationships with the LGBT community.

Olympia is one of three Washington cities to receive the top score for LGBT inclusiveness by the Human Rights Campaign. Seattle and Bellevue also earned a top spot.

How did they all earn top scores? The 2015 Municipal Equality Index rated cities nationwide based on their protection of civil rights for the LGBT community. With 100 possible points, all three cities scored a perfect 100 points. The campaign reported 47 cities earning perfect scores in 2015 compared with 38 cities in 2013.

Olympia received 67 out of 100 points in 2013 and prompted an effort to raise the score. For two consecutive years, the city scored 100 points on the index. The city achieved this by appointing LGBT liaisons filled by assistant city manager Jay Burney and Olympia Police Sergeant Ren Emerson-Beckman.

In celebration of LGBT milestones in Olympia, a 55-foot “living timeline of equality” was created and displayed at City Hall as well as at South Puget Sound Community College’s Queer I Am conference.

In addition to being the home to several support groups including Stonewall Youth, PFLAG, Community Youth Services, and Pizza Klatch, Olympia’s LGBT friendliness also reflected in its local culture. For 25 years and counting, Capital City Pride has held a festival in downtown Olympia every June with a parade, drag shows, and live music.

“Olympia is extraordinarily open and accepting. My partner and I had that impression from the moment we came up here,” said Greg Dempster, who moved to the area in 2011 from Southern California. As a current volunteer at PFLAG Olympia and longtime activist, he also praised the number of resources and outreach groups available for residents of all ages.

The 2015 index included other Washington cities including Tacoma, which was short of a perfect score of 99, Spokane at 71, Pullman at 59, Vashon at 79 and Vancouver at 64 points.

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