Carson City, Sparks, Elko Score Low On National LGBTQ Rights Report

Mar 19, 2019

The the LGBTQ-rights focused nonprofit, Human Rights Campaign, recently released a study concerning how inclusive city policies and services are to folks in the LGBTQ community. The report rates cities around the country on their non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership's public position on equality.

Paul Boger sat down with KUNR's Bree Zender to give us a rundown on the city ratings in Northern Nevada.

So tell me about this report. How are the scores compiled?

So, the cities can score a total of 100 points and are scored on 49 different criteria points. Those criteria points are very broad. They range from offering transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to city employees, having a city-wide non-discrimination ordinance in place, to having a LGBTQ liason available for law enforcement officers to educate the force about how to interact respectfully with LGBTQ people.

Xavier Persad is a spokesperson from the HRC. He says having these liasons is important, especially to some who identify as transgender.

"It's really important for law enforcement officials to know and be culturally sensitive about interacting with transgender individuals, for instance, respecting the use of a person's correct pronoun," Persad said.

There are also some bonus points available for having an openly LGBTQ person in city leadership or for having laws in place to protect youth from gay conversion therapy.

Where do Northern Nevada cities rank?

Four Northern Nevada cities were ranked in this report, including Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Elko. Reno was the only Northern Nevada city to score 100 points out of 100.

Carson City and Elko each scored a 50 out of 100 points. The HRC knocked a few points down for several factors, including not having a police liaison, not having trans-inclusive healthcare for city employees, and not reporting hate crimes to the FBI.

Sparks was ranked the lowest on the list [of cities in Northern Nevada], scoring a 44 out of 100 possible points. Sparks does offer trans-inclusive healthcare; however, the HRC reports that the unavailability of human rights commission and LGBTQ liaisons within the city’s government and police force account for their low score.

How have the cities responded to this report?

Sparks City Manager Steve Driscoll told me that the researchers from the HRC didn’t give the city enough time to properly respond to their questions, which he said leads to Sparks’ low score.

"This general survey has been coming across my desk for a couple of years," Driscoll said. "I've tried to get clarification and got zero response."

The nonprofit HRC has denied that, saying all cities were shown the scorecard and offered a feedback window of five weeks.

A representative from the city of Elko said that they are working to update city policies to include nondiscrimination ordinances. They’re also supportive of its annual Pride parade and festival. I tried to contact representatives from Carson City, but didn’t hear back.

It should be noted that the state already has a nondiscrimination ordinance, blocking discrimination concerning sexuality and gender identity in employment, but the HRC recommends cities adopt policies as well to better aid enforcement of these laws on a local level.