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FairfaxFairfax leaders angling for higher equality score

Fairfax leaders angling for higher equality score

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Fairfax County may have earned a significantly higher rating last year under the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, but the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 9 decided to seek perfection.

The county received 88 points out of 100 possible, up from 53 points in 2019.

Supervisors unanimously approved a joint board matter by Chairman Jeff McKay (D) and Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville) calling on county staff to examine and try to rectify areas where the county fell short in the index’s ratings.

“While an 88 is a ‘good’ score, we should be achieving 100 percent as some other localities have,” McKay said. “While equity cannot be completely measured by checkmarks on a scorecard, the [Human Rights Campaign] has laid out concrete goals that I believe Fairfax County can achieve in full.”

The board directed County Executive Bryan Hill to have staff review the Municipal Equality Index scorecard, search for opportunities to obtain all points possible and provide explanations for any sought-after points that officials think the county cannot achieve.

The county already may be achieving some of the missing items, but not in a way visible enough to register on the index, while others might be achievable via minor organizational changes, McKay said. Help from the General Assembly may be needed to garner some of the other missing points, he said.

The county’s 2020 Municipal Equality Index score included 77 standard points and 11 bonus points.

The index awarded 30 points out of 30 possible because of Virginia’s non-discrimination laws regarding employment, housing and public accommodations.

The index bestowed all 2 possible bonus points because state law protects youths from “conversion” therapy, but awarded zero bonus points out of 2 possible because of lack of laws regarding all-gender single-occupancy facilities.

Regarding its status as an employer, Fairfax County received all 14 possible points for non-discrimination in employment, all 6 possible points for providing transgender-inclusive health-care benefits and all 2 points possible for having an inclusive workplace.

The county lost out on 6 points for lack of a non-discrimination ordinance for county contractors and missed 1 possible bonus point for not providing employee domestic-partner benefits.

Fairfax County received all 5 possible points for having a human-rights commission and all 2 possible points for giving that commission an enforcement mechanism, but missed out on 5 points for not having an LGBTQ liaison in the county executive’s office. The county received all 6 possible bonus points for providing services to LGBTQ youth and elders and people living with HIV or AIDS, but lost out on 6 possible bonus points for not providing services to LGBTQ homeless people or the transgender community and not having a youth-bullying-prevention policy for county services.

The index awarded Fairfax County all 12 possible points for reporting 2018 hate-crime statistics to the FBI, but lost out on 10 possible points for not having an LGBTQ police liaison or task force.

Fairfax County received the 5 points maximum for its leadership’s public position on LGBTQ equality, but just 1 of 3 possible points for the county’s pro-equality legislative or policy efforts. The county earned all 3 possible bonus points for testing the limits of restrictive state laws on LGBTQ equality, but received none of the 2 possible bonus points for having LGBTQ elected or appointed municipal leaders.

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