In honor of this year’s Pride Month, Mayors Innovation Project Research Analyst Pablo Aquiles-Sanchez brings you highlights from mayors and cities working to counter harmful anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in a number of ways, either through direct, local responses to discriminatory state legislation, or through community engagement and inclusion.
Across the country, the rights of the transgender and greater LGBTQ+ communities have been under assault by state laws that chiefly target gender-affirming care and censor educational resources and school curriculums. In the face of these attacks, local leaders have begun to exercise their power to protect and celebrate their LGBTQ+ community members.
Safer Cities: Responding to Legislative Bans and Attacks
Kansas City, MO has declared itself an LGBTQ sanctuary city after the passage of a Missouri bill that bans gender-affirming care for minors and imposes restrictions for adults. More specifically, the city will not prosecute or fine any person or organization that seeks, provides, receives, or helps someone to receive gender-affirming care.
In response to the passage of restrictive bills, 13 Florida mayors pledged support for the LGBTQ community last month. The pledge was organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and is in direct response to bills that censor discussions of gender and sexual identity in elementary and middle schools, broadens the basis for book bans, and infringes on parents’ rights to ensure their transgender students’ pronouns are respected.
In March, Mayor Tishaura Jones spoke at a rally for trans rights in St. Louis in response to recently-introduced Missouri bills that would prevent gender-affirming treatment for minors and ban transgender women from competing in women’s sports.
Mayor Andre Dickens announced a $55,000 proposal to support the transgender community of Atlanta. The money would go to organizations that provide legal support for name changes and updating documentation, mental health, and youth mentorship.
Cincinnati proudly raised the transgender pride flag on International Transgender Day of Visibility. In 2022, Cincinnati updated their municipal code to directly provide legal protections for gender expression and identity. Many states lack laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
In Wisconsin, 21 municipalities including Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay have local ordinances that protect against discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity even though state law only explicitly protects against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The Georgia cities of Atlanta, Doraville, and Chamblee have passed nondiscrimination ordinances barring local businesses from discriminating against individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Atlanta amended its ordinance in 2022 to include discrimination on the basis of gender expression.
Governance and Civic Participation
Atlanta, GA has an LGBTQ advisory board composed of local LGBTQ+ civic leaders and advocates that make recommendations to the mayor and other city officials, and work to enhance engagement with the greater community. The city also employs LGBTQ+ Public Safety Liaisons in their Police, Fire Rescue and Corrections Departments to maintain dialogue and collaboration with the community.
In March, Boston, MA launched AmplifyGSA, an initiative to promote, support and protect Genders and Sexualities Alliances (GSAs) in Boston’s public schools. This program also seeks to build connections between youth, their families, teachers, and school administrators. GSA chapters in schools are important in fostering a welcoming, inclusive school environment for LGBTQ+ youth.
The LGBTQ+ Victory Institute, a national organization dedicated to leadership development, training, and research for LGBTQ+ elected officials recently released their Out for America 2023 Report – a report on the state of LGBTQ+ elected officials across the nation. In the past year, LGBTQ+ elected officials increased by 13.6 percent, with 1,185 currently serving. Among them are 58 LGBTQ+ mayors. According to their findings, the US must elect hundreds more LGBTQ+ mayors for equitable representation.
Cities and mayors have an important role to play in the protection of LGBTQ+ individuals and communities across the country, especially in the current political climate. With more discriminatory laws being introduced, local leaders must mobilize to defend the rights of their community members.