The City of Brookings and the Brookings Human Rights Commission have announced that Brookings has received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2021 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) for the fourth year in a row.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national organization which launched the MEI in 2012, is the largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization in the United States. It evaluates and rates cities yearly on a variety of municipal criteria that affect the LGBTQ+ community.
Brookings’ 100 was tallied on a scorecard that rated non-discrimination laws, municipality as an employer, municipal services and programs, law enforcement, and leadership in LGBTQ+ equality. The city received bonus points for having openly LGBTQ+ elected or appointed municipal leaders, and for providing services to LGBTQ+ youth.
Brookings once again earned one of HRC’s 74 MEI “All Star” designations. MEI All Stars are cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ+ equality in states that according to the HRC have “no state-level explicit statutory non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.”
The 2021 average score for cities in South Dakota was 31 out of 100 points, less than half the national average of 67.
Since the city’s first inclusion in the MEI in 2013, the City of Brookings, community organizations, and the Human Rights Commission have continued to improve inclusivity efforts year after year, and these efforts are reflected in the community’s score.
“The MEI score is a great accomplishment because of the people of our amazing Brookings community. Although it defines our support for the LGBTQ+ community, it also tells us we have more work to do to ensure equity and equality for all,” said Nieema Thasing, Chair of the Brookings Human Rights Commission (BHRC). “The BHRC is proud Brookings was recognized again — the only city in South Dakota to receive a perfect 100 MEI score. One of the activities this year which added to Brookings’ score was Brookings Public Library putting together a panel discussion on ‘Building Inclusive Spaces Within Our LGBTQ+ Community.’ Holding panels such as these in our community goes a long way towards knowing there is nothing we can't do as-long-as we continue to work together and recognize all the beauty in our diversity.”
City of Brookings Mayor Oepke “Ope” Neimeyer said, “We’re the only city in South Dakota with a 100 percent score and one of the few in the Midwest, and we continue to endeavor to keep that score. We’re proud of that and what we’ve accomplished — It’s what we stand for. Also, recently we’ve received recognition along with other peer communities across the country by the National League of Cities (NLC).”
That recognition came this year when Brookings was asked to answer a series of questions to be included in a NLC LGBTQ+ local officials policy brief entitled “How Cities Can Embrace the LGBTQ+ Community Through Policies and Programs.” The publication will help to guide communities across the country to shape LGBTQ+ policies using ideas and experience from communities like Brookings who strive to support and serve their residents. The City of Brookings is included in sections of the brief titled “Ordinance” and “Take Action.”
Brookings continues to embody the city’s slogan of “Bring Your Dreams” and is dedicated to advancing equality efforts and to continued advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in the region. Brookings’ MEI scorecard information can be found on the Human Rights Campaign website, hrc.org/mei.