Members of the Baton Rouge gay and lesbian community are raising questions about the "2012 Municipal Equality Index," a new report from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
The HRC, the country's largest LGBT advocacy organization, gathered data on more than 100 U.S. metro areas' laws and policies regarding gays and lesbians, and presented each city with a score from 0 to 100. Only two cities in Louisiana were evaluated, and Baton Rouge scored 2 out of 100 — one of the worst scores in the nation. (By contrast, New Orleans received a 79, while Jackson, Miss., got an 8.)
"I think our [Baton Rouge] score should have been about a 12 — but a 12 is still not good," says Bruce Parker, the managing director of Equality for Louisiana. "The mayor [Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden] has an executive order protecting [city] employees based on sexual orientation." Parker also said that while serving as a state representative, Holden voted against the constitutional amendment that banned both same-sex marriage and civil unions in Louisiana.
Matthew Patterson, chair of the education and advocacy committee for Baton Rouge's Capital City Alliance, said the HRC had not contacted his group for data. Patterson also questioned the group's findings, but added, "We certainly don't have substantive legal protection in place."
As for how numbers like those in the HRC report affect the business world, Patterson said, "The sheer number of Fortune 500 companies who have passed protection is amazing. I think the data is clear across the country — cities that are more open, it affects the economy in really positive ways. These things aren't just about protecting one or two people."
A note in the report added, "All cities rated were provided their scorecard in advance of publication and given the opportunity to submit revisions." HRC did not identify whom the researchers contacted. The authors did not return an email request for comment on their methodology. — Kevin Allman