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Akron top rated for LGBTQ+ policies, but there is still work to be done

a pride flag

The city of Akron scored a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index which rates municipal law and policy on its support of LGBTQ+ people, but advocates say it does not show the whole picture.

LGBTQ+ people who belong to other marginalized communities, such as Black and transgender people, are still struggling, said Steve Arrington, executive director of the Bayard Rustin LGBTQ+ Resource Center.

“What I say about the gay community at large is not across the board for all parts of our gay community,” he said. “I work with a marginalized LGBT community from 18 to 29. That community is homeless, that community has a lot of substance abuse, a lot of anger and is traumatized. So they are a different population.”

This is the sixth time in seven years the City of Akron has received a perfect score. It also scored a 100 in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022. The index rates cites based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality.

The score shows some of the positive efforts of the city, Arrington said.

“They have organizations here that address many needs that many cities don't have. We have one of the most powerful gay endowment funds in Summit County, and some counties don't even have those resources to be able to provide funds to LGBTQ nonprofit organizations,” he said. “We have one of the largest gay pride events in the state of Ohio. That is done because of the collaborative efforts from the city, government and other organizations.”

There is still work to be done for marginalized communities that have fallen behind because of their experiences of racism and other prejudice in addition to homophobia, Arrington said.

“It’s about building partnerships, building collaborations, knocking at doors,” he said. “That’s what we do to try to heal and help pull the marginalized communities up to the equality that the greater gay community is taking advantage of.”

Arrington said the Bayard Rustin Center is leading outreach efforts to work with the city in addition to its annual community events like Family Black Pride and daily support such as the resources available at the center.

“We are a drop-in center,” he said. “We have expanded that service and have just as many white youth come here as African-American youth, so it’s open to the community.”

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.