New rankings: College Park, Arlington score highly on LGBT equality

Cities and counties in Maryland and Virginia in the D.C. suburbs are some of the most LGBTQ-friendly places in the country, according to recent rankings.

Of eight cities in Maryland ranked by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Foundation in the 2021 Municipal Equality Index, four earned 100-point scores on LGBTQ equality measures, including municipal nondiscrimination measures and inclusive policies. That’s the highest score possible.

The four areas in Maryland earning perfect scores were Gaithersburg in Montgomery County; College Park in Prince George’s County; Columbia in Howard County; and Frederick.

In Virginia, Alexandria as well as Arlington and Fairfax counties all earned 100-point scores.

D.C. was not included in the city rankings; HRC said the District is “more properly compared to a state” and is included on its State Equality Rankings.

The city rankings have been released every year since 2012 and show a record number of municipalities across the U.S. earning 100-point scores. In 2012, just five cities earned perfect scores, compared to 110 this year, “illustrating the striking advancements municipalities have made over the past 10 years,” HRC said.

The 100-point scale assesses municipalities across five areas, including:

  • Local nondiscrimination ordinances covering employment, housing and public accommodations;
  • Nondiscrimination policies of municipal governments and benefits extended to LGBTQ employees;
  • The extent to which LGBTQ residents are included in city services and programs;
  • How law enforcement engages with the LGBTQ community and whether hate crimes are reported
  • Leadership on LGBTQ equality, which the rankings authors say includes LGBTQ elected officials as well as symbolic moves, such as marching in a Pride parade or painting crosswalks in rainbow colors.

The study assessed 506 cities across the U.S., including all 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities as well as the city in each state home to that state’s two largest public universities, among others.

Overall, 25% of cities scored over 96, and 25% of cities scored under 48. The average score across the U.S. was 67 points, according to the rankings.

College Park, which is home to the University of Maryland, ranked highly for nondiscrimination laws, municipal services and law enforcement. The city lost a few points for not having transgender-inclusive health care benefits for city employees.

However, the city earned back points for the services it provides to people living with HIV/AIDS, and LGBT youth in addition to having openly LGBTQ elected officials.

Bowie, also in Prince George’s County, earned 60 points — the lowest score among cities ranked in Maryland and lower than the national average.

It was dinged for the lack of a municipal employee nondiscrimination policy covering gender identity; lacking an LGBTQ police liaison; and the lack of a strong public commitment on LGBTQ equality from city leaders, according to the rankings.

Annapolis scored 79 points, and Baltimore scored 95 points.

In Virginia, all three jurisdictions in the D.C. area — Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax — earned 100-point scores.

Virginia Beach and Richmond both also scored 100 points.

Other Virginia cities ranked included Chesapeake (80 points); Newport News (70 points); Roanoke (65 points); Norfolk (91 points); Charlottesville (79 points); and Hampton (81 points).

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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