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This story was originally published by NC Policy Watch on Dec. 1. Story by Joe Killian.

North Carolina towns and cities are largely scoring higher on LGBTQ equality measures, according to a new study from The Human Rights Campaign.

The national LGBTQ advocacy organization released its annual Municipal Equality Index Wednesday, scoring more than 500 cities across the country on 49 different criteria with regard to law, policies and services of municipalities. The group calls the annual report, in its eleventh year, “the nation’s premier benchmarking tool for municipal officials, policy makers and business leaders to understand how well cities across the nation are embodying LGBTQ+ inclusion in their laws, policies, and services.”

The index examined ten North Carolina municipalities, the same number as last year. Three of those cities – Carrboro, Chapel Hill and Greensboro – received perfect scores of 100.

While Chapel Hill and Greensboro received perfect scores last year as well, Carrboro’s score is up from 84 last year. While the scores for most North Carolina municipalities rose or stayed the same in the last year Durham, which got a 100 last year, fell to 92.

Durham’s drop came in the “municipality as employer” section of the evaluation. Last year, the city got 26 out of a possible 28 points in this section, while this year that dropped to 20. The city was scored zero of a possible two points under the “inclusive workplace” metric and zero of a possible three points under the “city contractor non-discrimination ordinance” metric.

The city also got fewer “flex points” this year than last – extra points awarded to municipalities on criteria that “aren’t available to all cities at this time.” This can boost the total score for a municipality, though none of the scores can exceed 100.  Flex points are awarded, for instance, for cities offering city employee domestic partner benefits and those that have youth bullying prevention policies.

Last year Durham got two flex points for the city providing services specific to LGBTQ youth and two for providing services to LGBTQ people experiencing homelessness. This year, it got zero flex points in each of those categories.

Some of last year’s lowest scoring municipalities had dramatic increases in this year’s report. Cary, which scored 12 last year, is at 50 this year. Wilmington, which was at 36 last year, jumped 10 points to a score of 46.  Some of the increased scores can be attributed to a successful campaign to get municipalities across the state to adopt local non-discrimination ordinances.

As Policy Watch has reported, the new ordinances became possible when a state ban on new local protections — including nondiscrimination ordinances for employment and housing — was lifted. The ban was a legacy of the brutal fight over HB 2 and HB 142, the controversial laws that excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from statewide nondiscrimination protections.

This year’s municipal equality report comes as a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ bills sweep state legislatures across the country, the U.S. Senate moves to protect marriage equality and LGBTQ people face a sharp increase in politically motivated violence.

“This year, we’ve seen a disturbing number of extremist legislators attacking transgender and non-binary youth for no reason other than to erase them and their families,” said JoDee Winterhof, senior vice president of Policy and Political Affairs for The Human Rights Campaign. “However, we’re seeing local leaders continue to push forward in making equality and inclusion the cornerstone of their cities. By doing so, they have helped to create safe, welcoming spaces for all families while spurring economic growth by signaling to residents, visitors and employers that their city is open to everyone.”

The full equality index rankings for North Carolina, in descending order:

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