by Jack Kramer
A Human Rights Campaign report on LGBTQ inclusion released this month rates Charleston and Columbia considerably higher than six other South Carolina cities graded by the LGBTQ civil rights group.
Among the eight South Carolina municipalities examined, results ranged from zero to 72 on a scale of 100. Charleston and Columbia scored 72 and 71, respectively, just higher than the national average of 58.
The cities were graded on non-discrimination laws (whether discrimination is prohibited by the city), the municipality as an employer (equivalent benefits and protections to LGBTQ workers), municipal services (LGBTQ programs included in city services), law enforcement (responsible reporting of hate crimes), and leadership on LGBTQ equality (city commitment to fully include LGBTQ).
The criteria are meant to "combine [and] create the most exacting standards yet, ensuring that nondiscrimination protections are the strongest they can be and encourage cities to pursue cutting-edge ways of moving equality forward," according to the report.
Charleston stood out for its non-discrimination laws and public employment policies. Clemson, Greenville, Mt. Pleasant, Myrtle Beach, and Rock Hill all scored zeroes for their lack of non-discrimination laws.
Earlier this month, Mt. Pleasant Town Council passed two non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBTQ residents' right to fair housing and the use of public accommodations.
The Holy City's non-discrimination laws regarding housing and public accommodations were given full marks by HRC for protecting both sexual orientation and gender identity.
Charleston’s LGBTQ employees and city contractors are protected in policy, but lack transgender inclusive healthcare benefits and inclusive workplaces, which are partly defined by the group as offices with employee pride alliances or diversity training focusing on LGBTQ inclusivity.
Some of the largest cities in the nation scored a clean 100 in the report, including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, and Seattle.
Charlotte, Nashville, Houston, Omaha, Kansas City, and Miami all scored lower than Charleston despite having much larger metro areas.
Since 2016, Charleston has improved its score by 30 points, from a 42 to a 72. Last year, Charleston scored a 67.
"We’ve seen incredible progress, [but] much work remains," said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.
The HRC says that they gave municipalities time to review their grades and submit any additional information prior to publishing this year's scorecards.