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Bloomington recognized as best in state for LGBTQ inclusiveness



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A Pridefest attendee shows off his rainbow attire Aug. 31 on Kirkwood Avenue. The City of Bloomington earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign 2019 Municipal Equality Index for the fifth year in a row. Sarah Zygmuntowski Buy Photos

The City of Bloomington earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign 2019 Municipal Equality Index, which measures LGBTQ inclusiveness, for the fifth year in a row.

The MEI score is based on five categories: non-discrimination laws, the city as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality. Bloomington also was recognized as an MEI All-Star, awarded to cities with a score above 85 points, despite its location in a state lacking strong pro-equality laws.

Bloomington was the highest-scoring city in Indiana with 100 points. Ranked second in the state was Indianapolis with 89 points. Third was West Lafayette with 85 points.

“I think the score demonstrates to the public that Bloomington is making sincere and ongoing efforts to be welcoming to all,” said Barbara McKinney, director of the City of Bloomington Human Rights Commission, in an email to the Indiana Daily Student.

The Bloomington Human Rights Commission’s main role, McKinney said, is to enforce the Bloomington Human Rights Ordinance. The ordinance protects people from discrimination in public accommodations, housing, employment or education based a variety of traits, of which gender identity and sexual orientation are included.

Doug Bauder is the director of the IU LGBTQ+ Culture Center and used to be a member of the commission. He said Bloomington’s non-discrimination ordinance is especially important because Indiana has limited statewide protections from discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“Bloomington is one of several cities in Indiana that has established that much for the community,” Bauder said.

Brandi Wampler, who runs the Facebook page LGBTQ+ Indiana, moved to Bloomington about a year and a half ago from a rural area of Monroe County. As a pansexual trans woman, she said she knew she had to move to Bloomington to feel safe and supported.

“I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” Wampler, 37, said.

Wampler used to live in Ellettsville, and she said people there are very conservative.

“They have more churches than they do gas stations,” she said.

One day, Wampler said, someone keyed the side of her car, wrote the word “fag” on it and left a note on the windshield advising her to attend a church in Ellettsville.

Wampler said she wasn’t aware of many incidents targeting LGBTQ people in Bloomington. She said the Bloomington Police Department is sensitive to the community’s needs. At this year’s Pridefest, BPD officers patrolled the outside of the festival and didn’t enter upon request. Wampler said this was because a significant number of LGBTQ people feel uncomfortable with law enforcement.

Many businesses in Bloomington are LGBTQ-inclusive spaces, Wampler said, and that makes her feel more comfortable. The availability of gender-neutral bathrooms is one way many businesses accommodate LGBTQ people, she said.

“When you gotta go, you gotta go,” Wampler said. “You shouldn’t feel unsafe when you gotta do it.”

When Wampler first came out, she said friends, family members and co-workers abandoned her. But she found support in Bloomington through support groups and health professionals. She began hormone therapy and changed her legal name.

Bauder said Bloomington’s MEI score is worth celebrating, and he loves living here, but there’s always more progress to be made, especially at a national level. He cited President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

“On a national level, we’re losing ground,” Bauder said. “But in Bloomington, not at all.”

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