Byline: Nick Kotsopoulos
WORCESTER -- A group that rates municipalities on their efforts to protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents has boosted its rating for the city by nearly twofold.
The Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights organization that advocates on behalf of LGBT residents, gave Worcester its top score of 100 in its 2014 Municipal Equality Index. Last year, the city's Municipal Equality Index rating was 55.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, Worcester was given the perfect rating for having in place nondiscrimination laws in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodations, and for its recognition of marriage equality, civil unions and domestic partnerships. It also received a perfect score for efforts to ensure that LGBT constituents are included in city services and programs; and in the area of law enforcement for having a LGBT police liaison or task force and reporting hate crime statistics to the FBI.
The city also received high scores for offering equivalent benefits and protections to LGBT employees, and it received "bonus points'' for providing support services to LGBT youth, homeless and elderly, as well as providing support services to people living with HIV/AIDS.
City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. had made it a priority to not only improve on last year's Municipal Equality Index rating but also to achieve a perfect rating of 100.
"When I became city manager, I made improving the city's record on LGBT rights a priority,'' Mr. Augustus said in a prepared statement Wednesday. "Some of these are small steps, but taken as a whole they tell a story: that Worcester is a place where all are welcome to live, work and play.''
"The perfect score we've received from the HRC is a reflection of our city's commitment to welcoming all residents regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,'' Mayor Joseph M. Petty said. "It is a priority of my administration that we make the city of Worcester a welcoming place to all individuals and families. The marked improvement over last year's score shows that the efforts we have made to be more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community are working.''
To achieve that, he recommended to the...