Fayette County

Lexington gets ‘all-star’ rating for LGBTQ rights. One Kentucky city scored higher.

The city of Lexington has been named an “all-star” city by a national nonprofit for its policies and anti-discrimination laws that protect gay, lesbian and transgender people.

Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit that advocates for LGBTQ rights, released on Thursday its sixth annual rankings of cities that have policies and local ordinances that protect those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Lexington received a score of 92 points — a 21-point jump from its score of 71 in the same ranking in 2016.

Lexington is one of 41 cities on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index with an “all-star” city status. The study ranked 506 cities on 44 different criteria. All-star cities are those that score over 85 points in states that do not have statewide LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.

Lexington still trails Louisville on the Human Rights Campaign list. Kentucky’s largest city received a perfect score of 100. Other Kentucky cities included on Human Rights Watch’s list trail far behind Lexington and Louisville. Covington was third with 74. Morehead scored 59. Berea got a 33. Frankfort’s score was a 52. Owensboro received an 18. Bowling Green’s score was 17.

Lexington’s point gain and addition to the “all-star” city is a move in the right direction and one to celebrate, activists said.

Josh Mers, chairman of Lexington Fairness, said Lexington’s bump in the rankings was because of two key changes — the city has appointed a current staffer in Mayor Jim Gray’s office to serve as a liaison to the LGBTQ community. The Lexington Police Department has also appointed someone to serve as a liaison. That police officer has been working with the community for more than a year, Mers said.

Louisville scored 100 in part because the Jefferson County school district’s anti-bullying policy also includes protections for LGBTQ youth. Fayette County school’s anti-bullying policy does not. Mers said Lexington Fairness has not yet approached the school system about adding LGBTQ youth to its anti-bullying policy but will do so soon.

“These rankings are not just important within the community,” Mers said. “These types of rankings are very important to cities. Businesses look at these rankings. These rankings show that we take equality and fairness seriously in Lexington.”

Gray, who is openly gay, said Lexington’s high score on the list tells potential businesses and people who want to locate here that Lexington is a welcoming and fair place.

“Fortunately, Lexington is a place that welcomes everyone,” Gray said. “ Of course that’s because it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also a winning strategy that makes us competitive. Smart, talented people want to live, work, and stay in a city that invites everyone in … it’s good for business.”

Beth Musgrave: 859-231-3205, @HLCityhall