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Pride in Diversity and Inclusion Puts Rochester at the Top of the List for Gay Rights

For a third straight year, Rochester has received a perfect score for gay rights from the Human Rights Campaign. But for many, this comes as no surprise.

The Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley is one of the oldest advocacy groups in the country, and has made huge strides to help the city of Rochester become accepting of the LGBTQ community. In the early 1990s, the organization sued in order for the city to recognize it as a non-profit.

“I’m not surprised that the city of Rochester was able to score a full 100,” said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance. “The city has a long history of really doing the right thing on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and in making sure the right systems are in place.”

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also expressed pride in her city.

“Rochester has a long history of being a diverse and welcoming city,” said Warren. “I think Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are proudly looking down at us, knowing that when it comes to modern day issues of equality and social justice, the city that they loved still leads the way.”

In many studies, research shows that diverse companies outperform their competitors. When it comes to gender, companies that have a more balanced workplace are 15% more likely to edge out their peers, while ethnically diverse workplaces are 35% more likely to do the same.

New York State as a whole has been very progressive in its policies regarding the LGBTQ community. In 2011, it became the largest state to legalize same-sex marriage, and just last year Governor Andrew Cuomo used executive action to install protective regulations for transgender New Yorkers.

But some things set Rochester apart from the rest of the state, explaining its high ranking.

Rochester has a LGBTQ police liaison or task force, which its neighbor Buffalo does not. Rochester reported its 2014 Hate Crimes statistics to the FBI, while nearby Syracuse did not. Having transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and elected gay officials also propelled Rochester to the top of the Human Rights Campaign’s list.

However, there is still work to be done.

“We hear from [transgender people] regularly…who are neither employed in nor citizens of the city of Rochester proper,” said Fearing.

As the state Senate has refused to pass a transgender non-discrimination law, Fearing believes that it may be the job of Monroe County — which has been generally unsupportive of LGBTQ rights as a whole — to adopt an anti-discrimination law, and by doing so, set a precedent.

The Human Rights Campaign’s list of best cities for gay rights also gave Albany, New York City, and Yonkers perfect scores of 100. Buffalo received a 95 and Syracuse received a 94. The New York State average was 87, and the nationwide average was 55.

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