LGBTQ media play role in keeping local communities safe
by Joe Siegel
The website safehome.org, which specializes in home protection and personal safety, has released its annual LGBTQ+ State Safety rankings.
Among the takeaways from the survey are:
* Vermont and California scored the highest for LGBTQ+ safety, while North Dakota scored the lowest.
* States with higher populations of LGBTQ+ residents also had higher than average rates of hate crime against the LGBTQ+ community, even in states that scored highly on the index regarding protection in the workplace, healthcare, and community.
* On average, states have more laws in place protecting LGBTQ public employees than private employees. For example, 59 percent of states have laws that protect employees of state and local governments from discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 41 percent of states have laws that protect employees in the private sector from discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression.
Publishers and editors at LGBTQ media had varying reactions to the report. In Washington, DC., which ranked 16th in the report, Washington Blade editor Kevin Naff was quick to highlight his newspaper’s work in following hate crimes in the city and across the United States.
“The Blade has a long history of covering hate crimes targeting the LGBTQ community in D.C. and around the country,” said Naff. “That reporting is important in keeping the community informed about active threats and in assisting law enforcement in solving crimes.”
In more rural areas in conservative states like Texas, however, the climate can be very different.
“At the moment, Texas does not have a statewide non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) in place to protect its LGBTQ citizens in housing, employment, and healthcare,” said Lourdes Zavaleta, managing editor of Houston’s Outsmart magazine. “Only five of our urban cities have NDOs, so people living in rural areas of the state are at risk of being harmed. On top of this, we are being attacked by our own government officials. In 2021, Texas lawmakers proposed over 50 bills that specifically target LGBTQ people. A majority of these bills would harm trans children. Governor Greg Abbott has put passing anti-trans legislation on his list of priorities.
“Overall, there is much work that needs to be done to ensure the full safety and equality of LGBTQ Texans,” Zavaleta added. “OutSmart works to provide a voice to LGBTQ Texans who want to see the state change for the better — from community members to activists and pro-equality lawmakers. We’ve also kept our readers up to date on the latest LGBTQ news and issues that impact their lives.”
The Lone Star State ranked 32nd in the study.
Tammye Nash, managing editor of the Dallas Voice, concurred with Zavaleta that there is much work to be done in Texas.
“Although LGB folks are included in the state hate crimes law, trans people are not. There is no statewide nondiscrimination law, either. And although both have been deemed unconstitutional and unenforceable via U.S. Supreme Court rulings, both a state constitutional amendment banning legal recognition of same-sex marriages and Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code — aka the Texas Sodomy Law— remain on the books,” said Nash.
There is some good news in Texas, however. “There is a very active and well-organized LGBTQ community in Texas, stretched across the state,” Nash explained. “We have a very active lobby organization, Equality Texas, based in Austin but with members across the state. Obviously the larger metropolitan areas are ‘safer’ for openly LGBTQ people. Dallas has long been known for having a large, well-organized, active and relatively wealthy LGBTQ population. And the larger cities all have local ordinances on the books to protect their LGBTQ residents.”
Iowa, one of the swingiest of swing states, ranked number 11 in the study. And according to Tim Nedoba, publisher of Iowa City’s GoGuide, “Despite the move right by our state governments during the Trump era, Iowa has maintained most of the gains of the past decade. There were many attempts to take away the rights of our trans communities, but they stalled in committee and never made it to the government’s desk.”
Pennsylvania, which ranked 22nd, is the only state in the Northeast without statewide LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in employment, housing and public accommodation, according to Jason Villemez, managing editor of the Philadelphia Gay News. “Even our hate crimes law was struck down in 2008 due to a technicality. The only way that is going to change, in my opinion, is if Democrats get majorities in the state legislature,” said Villemez.
“We at PGN have been stressing the importance of local elections for what feels like eons. They can be even more important for local LGBTQ populations than national elections,” Villemez added. “As it stands, only a few dozen local municipalities have LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections in the state. And like the survey mentioned, any area with a large concentration of LGBTQ people is going to have higher than average hate crime rates than less populated areas. In addition to reporting on incidents of violence, we always try to educate people on public safety, including the various community resources available to people to report crimes, some of which are anonymous, for those who distrust law enforcement. We always strive to do the most we can to help educate and inform people through our reporting.”
For more information on the 2021 LGBTQ+ State Safety rankings, go to https://www.safehome.org/data/lgbtq-state-safety-rankings/