St. Louis named one of nation’s top LGBT-friendly cities
On Nov. 27, the Human Rights Campaign released the Municipal Equality Index (MEI), which rates a selection of 137 U.S. cities on the policy and community accommodations offered to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Focusing on nondiscrimination laws and accessible public programs and services available for the LGBT community, the MEI ranked St. Louis as one of the most LGBT-friendly cities in the nation. This index particularly focuses on municipal over state law, permitting cities like St. Louis, which received a score of 100 out of 100, to rank higher than a city like Northampton, Mass., which legalized gay marriage eight years ago. Pride St. Louis, a community-based organization that promotes gender identity and sexual orientation equality, has been supporting the LGBT community in St. Louis since it hosted its first Gay and Lesbian Pride Celebration in 1980. Today, Pride St. Louis works closely with OUTgrads, Wash. U.’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally and asexual graduate student group. It is also in the process of forming closer ties with Pride Alliance, Wash. U.’s undergraduate gay, genderqueer, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, questioning, intersex, ally and asexual association. Below, community members and students reflect on St. Louis’s rating and their own experiences with the LGBT community at Wash. U. and in St. Louis.
Director of Education and Outreach
Pride St. Louis
“I do think [the rating] holds some substance. I think that, you know, Pride St. Louis has seen at the pride festival an increase in involvement through the community. I think our legislative involvement here in St. Louis is also supporting equality as well. You know, Mayor [Francis] Slay is a very big supporter of LGBT rights, and just last week we saw that St. Louis county passed anti-discrimination law that covers the entire county, so I think that the Equality Index really does reflect the city of St. Louis and even the suburbs that were starting to come together to realize that, ‘Hey, everyone should be treated fairly and equal.’”
“I don’t have a vast experience. I guess I’ve been to the bars in Tower Grove—that has a pretty active LGBT scene, and the bars are pretty gay-friendly or gay-oriented. I worked at Coffee Cartel, which is a very gay-friendly business, and the management is pretty much exclusively gay…It seems sort of, like, how do you rate the gay-friendliness of a city? To some degree, it’s going to be a little bit arbitrary. And I think that in any city you’ll find sort of like pockets.
“I think that being on a university campus is sort of an anomaly, so I’m not sure that it’s a reflection of all of St. Louis, but I think at Wash. U. it’s a very open community, and one of my roommates from last year identifies with that group and is very involved on Wash. U.’s campus, but I am not sure how that reflects St. Louis as a whole. But I do think it’s surprising actually to think of St. Louis that way—because of the racial tension—that they would be so accepting of that big of a LGBT community.”