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Morgantown joins Huntington with top marks in annual equality index

MORGANTOWN — Make room, Huntington.

The city of Morgantown has become the second in West Virginia to achieve a Municipal Equality Index top score of 100.

The MEI is a joint effort of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and The Equality Federation to rate how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are of LGBTQ people.

Thursday marked the release of the 10th annual report.

 Along with being one of 110 cities nationwide to get top marks,  Morgantown is one of three cities in West Virginia — along with Huntington and Charleston (94) — to receive the MEI “All-Star” designation, which goes to cities earning scores of 85 or higher in states without statewide protections pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The annual report used 49 criteria to assess 506 cities, including state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the country, the five largest cities/municipalities in each state, and the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, among others.

It scored seven cities in West Virginia: Huntington (100), Morgantown (100), Charleston (94), Wheeling (59), Lewisburg (45), Charles Town (45), and Parkersburg (13).

The average score for cities in West Virginia is 65, two below the national average.

Morgantown’s score made a significant jump since the 2020 report, in which it received 77 points. According to data in the report, the city picked up significant points in the categories of law enforcement (10), municipality as employer (6), and municipal services (5).

The city has adopted laws creating a civilian oversight board for the city’s police department and banning the practice of conversion therapy on youth since the last report.

Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin thanked the city’s human rights commission for its efforts. The commission has pointed to raising the city’s index score as a goal in recent years.

“The city of Morgantown is a welcoming place where everyone is valued, from our super-inclusive welcoming statement to our ban on conversion therapy for our youth,” Selin said. “We’ve worked over the years on anti-discrimination in housing and the workplace and worked together as a community to advance policies that will ensure our residents can be free from discrimination. We will continue this important work in the future.”

Morgantown joins Huntington, which received a rating of 100 for the third consecutive year.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said he hopes his city, and now Morgantown, can serve as an example for other municipalities, as well as the state.

He said “I really believe that communities need to be intentional in our actions,” recalling Huntington’s score of 45 in 2014 and the efforts undertaken to raise it.

While there have been efforts to pass the Fairness Act at the state level, it hasn’t made much legislative progress, putting the onus on local leadership.

Morgantown is one of 15 municipalities in the state with municipal laws providing explicit protections for LGBTQ people.

Williams said he strongly opposes any legislative efforts to remove the ability for municipalities to put such local measures in place.

Selin agreed.

“It flies in the face of history and flies in the face of democracy,” she said.

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