City recognized for inclusive LGBTQ+ policies and services

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — “I think its important for us to set a good example of how we can be welcoming to people from wherever,” Kris Koester, City of Champaign LGBTQ+ Liaison, said.

That’s why one city is working to improve their policies to be more inclusive. One city in Central Illinois is being recognized for changing policies and services to bring more equality to every person.

“We continue to find ways to be more inclusive and more welcoming to people of all walks of life, but specifically to this the LGBTQ community,” Koester said.

That’s why the City of Champaign is being recognized by one national foundation for their inclusive policies for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Its nice to continue to be recognized because what that means is that we continue to make progress, we continue to be welcoming, we continue to be open and affirming to those who are apart of this community,” Koester said.

The city was honored by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The foundation released its 10th Annual Municipal Equality Index, or MEI, rating Champaign as the second highest-scoring municipality in Illinois. They rank cities based on non-discrimination laws, law enforcement, leadership on LGBTQ+ equality and more. The score jumped to 94, which is a ten point difference from 2020.

“We’ve gone a long way to being open and inclusive and it means something to elected officials, it means something to those who live in this community because everyone knows someone who is probably part of the LGBTQ communities,” Koester said.

People in the community appreciate the effort the city is making.

“Research does show that structural and ideological support for LGBTQ people, such as having these affirming policies in place, does help the community perceive their climate, perceive that community as more supportive towards them and if you’re feeling more supported, you’re likely going to invest in that community more,” Jaz Routon, Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County, said.

LGBTQ+ advocates, like the Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County, are glad to see a city working to make an inclusive space for everyone, but they say some work still needs to be done.

“Its an excellent thing to celebrate,” Routon said. “The score is great, but there is also so much work to do and so much work related specifically to LGBTQ advocacy, education, resources, support, and ways we can combat existing stigma that is still in the local community.”

Mayor Deb Feinen also said the review helps them improve and revise policies.

The 10th Annual Municipal Equality Index analyzed 506 American cities using 49 different criteria. This year’s MEI included ratings for nine Illinois municipalities, including Chicago which was ranked first in the state. The average score for most American cities this year was 67. For more information check out the link below.

https://www.hrc.org/resources/municipal-equality-index

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