Howard County remains a place where diversity and inclusion are more than just talking points, they are fundamental principles by which we strive to live. While we have made incredible strides over the last four years, we still have more progress to make to advance civil rights for LGBTQIA+ persons. Every resident deserves the right to live openly as their true selves and not be discriminated against for who they are and who they love. This score from the Human Rights Campaign affirms we are making that vision a reality.
The Municipal Equality Index examines inclusive laws, policies, and services of LGBTQIA+ people who live and work in cities across America. Cities are rated based upon non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement, and leadership on LGBTQIA+ equality.
Over the last four years, Howard County has seen significant strides to advance the LGBTQIA+ community. In 2019, Ball co-hosted the first ever Howard County Pride Festival which drew in thousands of attendees and created a LGBTQ+ Work Group that same year. Earlier this year, Ball passed legislation to create a permanent LGBTQIA+ Commission in Howard County, the first of its kind.
“LGBTQ+ people everywhere deserve to live in welcoming places that are focused on building equality for all. Since its launch 11 years ago, the main priority of the Municipal Equality Index remains supporting and celebrating the work cities do to serve LGBTQ+ people in the places they call home."
“In a time when LGBTQIA+ individuals feel unsafe, unwelcome, and unseen, it is encouraging to know that the city of Columbia is a safe haven,” said Yolanda F. Sonnier, Administrator for the Howard County Office of Human Rights & Equity. “While we celebrate this achievement, it is important for us to understand that we still have more work to do to ensure that our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, non-binary, and queer community members are experiencing the inclusivity for which we are being praised. This is why I am grateful that my Office has the opportunity to oversee and staff the new LGBTQIA+ Commission. Together with residents and community leaders, we are committed to advocating for equity and the full inclusivity of all Howard County LGBTQIA+ residents.”
“I am thrilled to see that Columbia has been given a perfect score! While there is always more work to be done to ensure the rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA+ community members are protected in full, this score tells my community that our leadership is actively working to do just that,” said Chris Hefty, Co-Chair of Howard County Pride. “Howard County Pride has grown year after year thanks to the support of the community and those who lead it. It’s thanks to the efforts of all of us that we can achieve these amazing things as a community. I look forward to continuing to work with the county government and community stakeholders as we break more records, all while uplifting the people who call Columbia their home.”