Perfect score for Tucson on equality index

Published: Oct. 18, 2016 at 10:00 PM MST|Updated: Oct. 18, 2016 at 10:08 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A national nonprofit that grades cities and their governments on the welcoming environment they provide for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer community has rated Tucson as a perfect 100.

The Human Rights Campaign considers several criteria for its Municipal Equality Index, according to the Tucson report.

"It's important, as a community, to be a community that, first of all, protects people against abuse," said Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. "And second, tells people that when you come to our community you are going to get an equal and fair chance."

Public support like that from elected leaders is one of the aspects that the HRC's report evaluates. Other issues include city government offering LGTBQ employees equal benefits and elected leaders passing local ordinances against discrimination in housing and employment opportunities

Tucson passed those sort of ordinances in the 90s.

"The rest of the country is catching up," said Rothschild.

The city has a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Commission, which is one of several dozen advisory groups that provide input to the governing process.

The GLBT Commission is currently recommended by city staff to merge with the city's Human Relations Commission. Its an evaluation process many other commissions and committees are going through as well, according to city leaders.

Current GLBT commissioner Adam Ragan said he fully supports the merger if it's what the public wants, but he hopes to receive that feedback in time to help the process. Ragan said he's curious to see how merging commissions would affect the progress made by individual groups and what it will do to projects that are still in the works.

"Not only to we have to defend what we built up, but we also have to continue to fight for those changes that do come up and continue to advance our community forward once again," said Ragan. "Maybe the best way to do that is to have a concerted LGBTQ committee working to advise mayor and council on our particular issues."

Rothschild said that there are so many committees and commissions that it's time to consolidate those that have shared interests. He said there are so many that it's a strain on the City Clerk's office to maintain all minutes and agendas, while some are struggling to maintain a quorum to even hold meetings.

Council member Karin Uhlich added Tuesday that merging groups like the GLBT and Human Relations Commission could help to strengthen the voice of various groups into one unified front.

Rothschild, Uhlich and Ragan agree that whatever comes of this potential merger, this is no time to become complacent with the strides that have already been made for the LGBTQ community.

"It doesn't mean the work is done," said Ragan. "There is always a need to engage the community and there is always a need to continue to advance our causes forward and to then protect what we've built up in terms of having a fully inclusive and equal city."

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