Bangor, Orono score below average in LGBT ‘Equality Index’

Angel Putney of Portland celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine on election night, 2012. BDN Photo by Gabor Degre

Angel Putney of Portland celebrates the legalization of same-sex marriage in Maine on election night, 2012. BDN Photo by Gabor Degre

Two of five Maine towns and cities scored below the national average in a recent report on LGBT equality by the national Human Rights Campaign.

HRC — the largest advocacy groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights — ranked 291 municipalities from every state in the nation, including five in Maine. Each city received a score between 1 and 100, with a national average of 57.

Each state’s capital, three largest municipalities, and the city or town that hosts the state’s largest public university were ranked. HRC also evaluated the 150 largest cities in the country. So some states, such as Alaska, had only three municipalities scored, while others had far more. California, for example, had 42 cities scored.

Portland received the highest marks in the state, with 89 points. Augusta scored 67 points and Lewiston earned a 59,  also topping the national average. Bangor came under with 49 points. Orono scored just 48, while the average for its category was 61.

That puts Maine at an average of 62, five points clear of the U.S. average — but that’s solely thanks to Portland’s high score. Without the state’s largest city pulling the score up, Maine’s score falls to just over 55.

Still, HRC advises against reading its index as an indication of any municipality’s friendliness toward gay or transgender people.

“This is not a ranking of a city’s atmosphere or quality of life,” the group said in its report. “It is an evaluation of the city’s laws and policies and an examination of how inclusive city services are of LGBT people. Some high-scoring cities may not feel truly welcoming for all LGBT people, and some low-scoring cities may feel more welcoming than their policies might reflect.”

Each score (see the whole report here) is based on the municipality’s non-discrimination laws; relationship recognition; employment and contracting practices; inclusiveness of city services; law enforcement; and municipal leadership on “matters of equality.”

Each municipality in Maine got perfect scores in the categories of non-discrimination and relationship recognition thanks to blanket state laws recognizing same-sex marriage and prohibiting discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In the categories of “municipality as employer,” “municipal services,” “law enforcement” and “relationship with the LGBT community,” results varied.

Here’s a breakdown of how Maine’s five towns and cities fared. Each category is followed by the towns or cities awarded points. If the municipality isn’t on the list, it means it didn’t meet that equality benchmark.

Notice the several categories that only Portland (or Portland and Augusta) received points for. Also notice the absence of Bangor and Orono on several categories.

Here we go.

Municipality as Employer

  • Non-discrimination in city employment, sexual orientation: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston, Bangor
  • Non-discrimination in city employment, gender identity: Augusta.
  • Domestic partner health benefits: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston, Orono.
  • Legal dependent benefits: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston, Orono.
  • Equivalent family leave: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston, Orono.
  • City contractor non-discrimination, equal benefits: Portland.
  • Bonus points, municipality a “welcoming place to work”: Portland, Orono.

Municipal Services:

  • Human rights commission: Orono.
  • LGBT liaison to mayor: None.
  • Anti-bullying school policies, sexual orientation: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston.
  • Anti-bullying school policies, gender identity: None.
  • Bonus points for providing services to “particularly vulnerable” parts of LGBT community: Portland.

Law Enforcement:

  • LGBT police liaison or task force: Portland.
  • Reported 2011 hate crime statistics to FBI: Portland, Augusta, Lewiston.

Relationship with the LGBT community:

  • Leadership’s public position on LGBT equality: Portland, Bangor.
  • Leadership’s pro-equality legislative or policy efforts: Portland, Bangor (2/3).
  • Bonus points for openly LGBT elected or appointed leader: Augusta.
  • Bonus points for city engagement with LGBT community: Portland.
Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.