Olympia is one of three Washington cities to receive the top score for LGBT inclusiveness by the Human Rights Campaign.
The 2015 Municipal Equality Index rates cities across the nation based on their protection of civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Olympia, Seattle and Bellevue each scored 100 out of 100 possible points. Cities were evaluated for their nondiscrimination laws, municipal services, employee treatment, law enforcement practices and overall relationship with the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign reports 47 cities earned perfect scores in 2015 compared with 38 cities in 2014. The average score was 56 points.
Olympia scored 100 points on the index in 2014. The city received 67 out of 100 points in 2013, prompting an effort to raise the score.
To do so, the city appointed LGBT liaisons. Those roles are filled by assistant city manager Jay Burney and Olympia Police Sgt. Ren Emerson-Beckman.
Olympia also revised city code to reflect the legality of same-sex marriage and to require contractors with projects totaling $50,000 or more to sign a declaration that they have nondiscrimination policies.
In March, Olympia invited the community to a celebration of LGBT milestones and created a 55-foot “living timeline of equality” that was displayed at City Hall as well as at South Puget Sound Community College’s Queer I Am conference.
This year, the police department launched Safe Olympia, which designates downtown businesses that volunteer to be a safe refuge where victims of hate crimes can wait for police. Participating businesses can be identified by a Safe Olympia sticker in their front windows.
Olympia’s LGBT friendliness also is reflected in the local culture. For 25 years and counting, Capital City Pride has hosted a festival every June in downtown Olympia with a parade, live music, drag shows, information, vendors, children’s activities and lots of rainbows.
In addition, the city is home to several support groups, such as Stonewall Youth, PFLAG, Pizza Klatch, Community Youth Services and SAGE.
Greg Dempster, who moved to the area in 2011 from Southern California, said he has been impressed with Olympia’s overall LGBT friendliness and feeling of safety. As a longtime activist and current volunteer with PFLAG Olympia, he also praised the number of resources and outreach groups available for residents of all ages.
“Olympia is extraordinarily open and accepting,” he said. “My partner and I had that impression from the moment we came up here.”
Other Washington cities on the 2015 index include Tacoma, which fell just short of perfection with a score of 99; Pullman at 59; Spokane at 71; Vancouver at 64 points and Vashon at 79.