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Local residents say Farmington's score should be higher


FARMINGTON — While a recent scorecard gave Farmington a score of 50 out of 100 for policies that promote LGBTQ inclusion and rights, local members of the LGBTQ community maintain that score should have been higher.

The Municipal Equality Index scorecard is put together by the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights organization based in Washington, D.C., that focuses on LGBTQ rights.

This is the second year that the index has included Farmington. Both years, the city has received a score of 50. The score is the third highest in New Mexico, below the cities of Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Albuquerque received a score of 74, while Santa Fe had a score of 65.

Sixty-eight cities received a score of 100, and the average national score was 57. Among the cities with perfect scores were Fort Worth and Phoenix. Gallup received a score of 39, and Las Cruces scored 46.

In a press release, the HRC described the scorecard as a tool for economic development.

“Today, the MEI serves as a vital tool for business leaders and municipal officials alike when it comes to economic development," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release. "CEOs know that in order to attract and retain the best employees, they must grow their companies in places that protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination and actively open their doors to all communities. The MEI is the best tool to help these businesses make crucial evaluations about the welcoming — or unwelcoming — nature of towns and cities across the nation.”

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The index rates 506 cities throughout the country. The HRC selected the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the nation, the five largest municipalities in each state, the cities that are home to each state's two largest public universities and the municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples. There were also 98 cities that the HRC and Equality Federation's state group members and supporters selected.

The HRC states in the report that it looks only at policy and does not necessarily reflect quality of life for LGBTQ community members.

Several local residents who identify as part of the LGBTQ community say they have good relationships with the city and its police department. MP Schildmeyer and Mark Lewis said Farmington Mayor Tommy Roberts and Farmington Police Chief Steve Hebbe led the city's inaugural Pride Parade in 2016.

"That spoke volumes," Lewis said.

Dale Leedy and Schildmeyer highlighted the police department's effort to offer self-defense training for members of the LGBTQ community.

Schildmeyer said she thinks the police department should "get each and every point available."

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Leedy said the one area he would like to see improved in Farmington is housing for homeless people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. He said People Assisting the Homeless, a Farmington homeless shelter, has had some training to assist homeless LGBTQ people.

While the homeless assistance is not one of the main categories identified on the scorecard, cities are eligible for bonus points if they provide shelter to the homeless LGBTQ population.

Leedy said the Farmington area has a large number of LGBTQ young people who are either homeless or in danger of becoming homeless due to issues at home or with their families.

In an emailed statement to The Daily Times, city of Farmington spokeswoman Shaña Reeves said the MEI scorecard is "meant to bring awareness to communities and improve equity for the LGBTQ groups." The statement cautioned that the scorecard "can be an incomplete representation of a community's support and efforts to be inclusive."

The statement highlighted some of the city's efforts to foster a positive and supportive relationship with the local LGBTQ community. The City Council has in the past designated Community Development Block Grant Funds to support Identity Inc., a Farmington-based LGBTQ community center. 

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.


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