Rockville Records Perfect Score for LGBTQ Support

Nearby Gaithersburg scores below national average

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Two Montgomery County cities 5 miles apart received starkly different reviews for their treatment of LGBTQ people this week.

The Human Rights Campaign released scorecards for 10 Maryland cities on Monday, scoring their commitment to the health, welfare, safety and equality of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. While Rockville received a perfect score on the report, Gaithersburg scored significantly lower, earning 57 points out of 100. The national average was 58.

Gaithersburg fared poorly in sections related to workplace equality, lack of LGBTQ liaisons and failure to report hate crime statistics to the FBI in 2016, according to the report by the national civil rights advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Gaithersburg city officials could not be reached for comment.

But just slightly southeast is a different atmosphere, the HRC report says.

In Rockville, the city recently held a community forum to discuss how to make the city more inclusive to the LGBTQ community, despite its already exemplary marks in each category. The conversation focused around a years-long effort to bolster inclusiveness and safety, drawing praise from Ruby Corado, founder of Casa Ruby, a LGBTQ organization providing social services to the Washington, D.C., area.

Corado commended Rockville’s community leaders for taking a proactive approach to LGBTQ issues.

For Rockville Communications Manager Marylou Berg, recognition from Corado and the HRC highlights an effort that sometimes goes unnoticed, but that has taken plenty of work. In 2015, the city received a score of 60 on the same report, 98 in 2016 and 100 in 2017 and 2018.

“We started off three years ago with scores that weren’t great and we’ve spent a lot of time to improve that and be more inclusive,” Berg said. “The community has been very responsive and supportive and that’s exactly what you need—support from the top down, and we’ve had that.”

Rockville has an LGBTQ liaison to the city manager and police department, and has nondiscrimination laws covering employment, housing and public accommodation. In the past year, the City Council has updated its city code to require all contractors and subcontractors to abide by the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which includes nondiscriminatory provisions for gender identity and expression.

The city has taken a stance to support and nurture the LGBTQ community, Berg said, hosting two Rockville Pride events, recognizing national recognition months.

“This year’s MEI again proves that there are no barriers to municipal LGBTQ equality for a city with dedicated, pro-equality elected officials,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release. “Forward-looking leaders across the U.S. are stepping up, protecting their youth from so-called ‘conversion therapy,’ increasing anti-bullying protections, ensuring transgender city employees have access to inclusive health care benefits and protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in all areas of life.”

Columbia and Frederick joined Rockville with a perfect HRC score, followed closely behind by Towson with score of 91. Gaithersburg scored second to worst in surveyed Maryland communities, with only Hagerstown scoring worse at 32 points.

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