Olympia seeks LGBT-friendly code revisions after low score on Municipal Equality Index

The Olympia City Council will consider revising the city’s non-discrimination policies at its next meeting 7 p.m. June 17 at City Hall.

City Manager Steve Hall said he organized an internal task force last year to modify the codes in response to Olympia’s score in the 2013 Municipal Equality Index. The index is sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and rates cities nationwide based on their sensitivity to the LGBT community.

Olympia scored 67 out of 100 possible points. Of the six categories in the scorecard, Olympia scored lowest in “municipality as employer,” “municipal services” and “law enforcement.” In comparison, Tacoma scored 90 points and Seattle scored 100 in the 2013 index.

The code revisions target language that is outdated and “more limiting than state law in the protection of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals,” according to the city. The new ordinance would expand the definition of sexual orientation, especially related to gender expression and identity.

If approved after a second reading, the revised code would also require certain city contractors to sign a declaration stating that they have non-discrimination policies. This would apply to projects totaling $50,000 or more, the city reports.

The proposed ordinance also revises language that pertains to equal benefits for domestic partners, which is no longer necessary because same-sex marriage is now legal in Washington, the city reports.

Hall said he was surprised at Olympia’s score wanted to ensure a higher score in the 2014 index. As for the ordinance’s stricter requirements for contractors, Hall said he can’t recall having any problems with discrimination in the past, but wanted to make sure city policy was clear.

“When we spend our money, we expect there to be no discrimination,” Hall told The Olympian about contractors. “We consider ourselves a community that’s very inclusive and supportive.”

On a related note, Tuesday’s council meeting includes a proclamation declaring the third weekend in June to be Capital City Pride Weekend. The proclamation comes ahead of the 24th annual Pride Festival, which runs June 20-22 in downtown Olympia and draws nearly 15,000 people to celebrate the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

Also on the council’s agenda Tuesday:

A public hearing will be held regarding the city’s 2015-2020 Six-year Transportation Improvement Program. The state requires cities to outline specific transportation needs in this six-year plan so that they can be eligible for state and federal funding, according to the city. After the hearing, the council will decide whether to approve the new six-year plan, which identifies 34 projects at a total cost of $135 million, the city reports. Of that total, the city is asking for $48.6 million in federal funding and $16.8 million in state funding.

Among the most expensive proposals are the Percival Landing boardwalk and float replacement at $20.7 million; the Herman Road bike lanes project at nearly $20.5 million; and the Fones Road widening for $15.4 million.