Brookings celebrates perfect score on Municipal Equality Index

Brookings, SD (KSFY) Members of the National Human Rights Campaign were in Brookings Wednesday to celebrate a major milestone for the city.

Brookings is the first South Dakota city to receive a 100 rating on the Municipal Equality Index. This nationwide index evaluated 506 American cities for their city ordinances and policies related to LGBTQ inclusivity.

Brookings was one of only 78 American cities to receive a perfect score this year.

“We hope others will follow our lead, we're very proud of what we've accomplished here,” Brookings Human Rights Commission Chair Steve Bayer said.

This perfect rating was the result of nearly five years of work in all areas of city government.

“Looking at nondiscrimination ordinances, so that's protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations, but the MEI also rates city employee benefits, municipal services, law enforcement and leadership on LGBTQ equality,” Collen Kutney with the National Human Rights Campaign said.

What set Brookings apart this year was a new city ordinance passed in 2017 that specifically provides protections in the areas of housing and employment.

“We're the first and only city in the state with such a law,” Bayer said.

“We just believe in diversity,” Brookings Mayor Keith Corbett said.

Corbett and other city leaders hope the MEI score will help everyone know they’re welcome in Brookings.

“We want everyone here and of course we want young people moving to Brookings and we want them to stay here,” Mayor Corbett said. “We certainly have a lot of job openings and I’m hoping that other people realize that yes we are a welcoming community.”

“The Municipal Equality Index score as well as the Campus Pride Index score were both significant factors in me choosing SDSU,” Sophomore Wren Murphy said.

Murphy said Brookings’ high MEI rating helped put SDSU above other potential options for college.

“It was huge for me, it gave me the sense that I would be accepted in the community when I went there,” Murphy said.

“If you're looking to move to a new location and you see that there are protections in employment, housing and public accommodations, you know you can move there without fear of being fired, evicted or refused services just because of who you are or who you love,” Kutney said.

Sioux Falls received the next highest rated South Dakota city with a score of 64 on the MEI. Vermillion came in next with 38. Watertown, Spearfish and Rapid City received 19 points. Mitchell and Aberdeen had 12. Pierre received a score of zero.