Last Thursday, the city of Worcester announced it received its second consecutive score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Municipal Equality Index.
A perfect score on the index reflects the city’s efforts in “establishing fully-inclusive local protections for LGBT people.”
The index rates “cities based on 41 criteria that fall into five broad categories: Non-discrimination laws; municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors; inclusiveness of city services; law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting; and municipal leadership on matters of equality.”
Worcester fell short on Leadership’s Public Position on LGBT Equality, for which it received a score of 4 out of 5; and Leadership’s Pro-Equality Legislative or Policy Efforts, 1 out of 3. [For those wondering how it reached 100 points, there were bonus points in other categories.]
The average score of the 408 cities ranked was 56.
The city’s score is something of which everyone should be proud. It represents the hard work of the administration under City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. It represents the end result of the collaboration of scores of citizens, public leaders and public employees. And, most importantly, it reflects the mores of the community.
Worcester is, and continues to evolve as, a city of diversity and inclusion. It is one of 47 in the country to which the remaining 361 cities that did not receive scores of 100 can aspire.
It makes it difficult to point out, then, that Thursday’s announcement came two days after the City Council’s latest dust-up with Act Now Worcester. A thorough recap of Tuesday’s events can be found here.
The group’s original petition to the City Council in January was titled: “A CIVIL RIGHTS RESOLUTION GUARANTEEING FULL BILL OF RIGHTS PROTECTION FOR ALL, REGARDLESS OF RACE, CREED OR COLOR.”
The council could not consider the petition, as City Solicitor David M. Moore ruled that the lengthy petition violated City Council Rule 33, which prohibits the council from taking up matters not directly related to Worcester.
So began months of protests, most notably Rich Aucoin and Sue Serpa, every Tuesday dressed in orange jumpsuits with gags over their mouths sitting quietly as the council began its work.
The sit-in protests were halted in October when Mayor Joseph M. Petty agreed to meet with Act Now Worcester members to discuss the issue. They began again earlier this month when the meeting failed to produce a compromise.
The situation took a turn for the worse last Tuesday when the group introduced a petition titled: “A RESOLUTION REVISING THE INAUGURAL OATH OF OFFICE IN WORCESTER TO FORMALIZE RULE 33’S SUPREMECY [sic] OVER THE U.S. BILL OF RIGHTS AND THE
COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS DECLARATION OF RIGHTS.”
District 1 Councilor Tony Economou quickly, and rightly, made a motion to file the petition, essentially relegating it to the wastebasket.
The move almost assured that the next City Council, which will be sworn in on Jan. 4, will have to deal with this issue.
We have no objection to Moore’s initial ruling, nor do we take issue with the initial petition, which concluded with “RESOLVED, that Worcester defends the rights of its citizens not withstanding any sections of the USA Patriot Act, Military Commission Act, or any Federal law that purports to nullify the Bill of Rights.”
We do take issue with the fact that what could have been a minor issue threatens to become a year-long fiasco.
Inclusion and diversity of people and of viewpoints, presupposes that people of goodwill work to resolve differences in a spirit of collaboration.
We believe there is a solution to be found. If not, it speaks to an intractability on one side or both that undermines what we desire our community to be.