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Covington’s LGBTQ ‘score’ soars; national advocacy group cites ‘welcoming’ talk with policy

The nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group has given the City of Covington high marks for how its laws, policies, and services treat LGBTQ people who live and work here – and those marks are improving.

The Human Rights Campaign says, Covington’s “score” on the group’s Municipal Equality Index jumped from 74 to 94 this past year, with 100 being a perfect score.

The City of Covington gave permission for two crosswalks to be painted with rainbow colors this year, making its support for the LGBTQ community visible.

Covington officials lauded the news and said the higher score reflected aggressive efforts to institutionalize and codify the City’s commitment to diversity as it relates to that population.

“We are thrilled,” Mayor Joe Meyer said. “Covington prides itself on being a welcoming community – in fact, it’s part of our core identity – and this is outside, independent reinforcement that we back up our beliefs and our attitudes with laws, protections, and policies.”

Covington’s MEI score of 94 placed Covington second in Kentucky, behind only Louisville.

The MEI rates cities on things like non-discriminatory laws, the City as an employer, services, law enforcement, and the City’s leadership’s position publicly on equality.

Covington’s scorecard can be seen HERE.

In the last year or so, Covington took several steps to improve its score, including passing an ordinance banning discrimination by City contractors for sexual orientation and gender identity, creating a non-gender-specific restroom at City Hall, and naming a liaison among senior staff to serve as a resource for LGBTQ issues for City employees.

The City also earned “points” for having among its appointed and elected leaders several members of the LGBTQ community.

Bonnie Meyer, who directs the Office of LGBTQ Programs and Services at Northern Kentucky University and worked with Covington on those steps, called the new rating “exciting.”

“It is nice to see the score reflect what those of us who live here already know – that the LGBTQ community is welcome in Covington and that our City government and leadership have a commitment to furthering inclusion within our city,” Bonnie Meyer said. “The City of Covington has been a leader in supporting LGBTQ people for more than 16 years.”

A photo from the 2018 NKY Pride parade (provided).

In 2003, Covington became one of the first cities in Kentucky to codify its commitment to protecting all people from discrimination by passing a Human Rights Ordinance that added sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, prohibiting discrimination within the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations, resort and amusement.

In June of this year, Covington was a presenting sponsor at the first-ever NKY Pride Community Awards Celebration, during which Covington Economic Development Director Tom West took the mic to urge other Northern Kentucky cities to follow Covington’s lead. Since then, the cities of Dayton and Bellevue have added those protections, and other cities are considering doing so.

Also in June, the 10th anniversary of NKY Pride was celebrated in Covington during an annual festival in Goebel Park, accompanied by a parade through downtown Covington.

West said national experts said Covington’s reputation for diversity in this area made it easier to attract talent, jobs, and investment.

Officials spent much of the year working with Atlanta-based Garner Economics on a citywide development strategy that included examining Covington’s reputation among so-called site selectors. That report specifically saluted Covington’s history as “a pathfinder and leader of human rights policies” and concluded that its reputation for being “welcoming” was a positive factor that helped Covington attract creative talent from out of town.

“There are many reasons for Covington to support the LGBTQ community,” West said. “The Garner report demonstrates that it’s not only right thing to do but also the smart thing to do.”

The City’s score also earned it a shout-out in an NBC News story, seen HERE.

City of Covington

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