A community LGBTQ+ task force was unveiled at Thursday night’s Park City City Council Meeting.
Social equity is listed as a central city priority for the government in Park City. After less than flattering scores from the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality index in each of the last two years, the city responded by forming an internal task force to address areas the city could improve.
On Thursday night, the community side of the task force was announced and aims to engage Park City’s LGBTQ+ residents, giving them a seat at the table when it comes to things like equity initiatives and community events.
Public comment on Thursday drew many complimentary remarks for the formation of the task force, but several LGBTQ+ commenters said there has never really been a sense of community for LGBTQ+ people in Park City, despite the city’s welcoming reputation.
Leah Langan serves as Executive Assistant to the Mayor and City Manager at city hall and is a member of the task force. She’s also an LGBTQ+ woman and liaison to city leadership. She said much of the concern raised about the lack of community in Park City echoed some of her own experiences during her time here.
Langan said including members of the LGBTQ+ community in the task force will help the community network and further deepen its roots in Park City.
“You know, the community is often not visible and I think that when given the opportunity, folks can come together and organize in a really effective way,” she said. “Within this new capacity, we’re able to do that and support that. It was really obvious last night that the need is there and that the city and council support our efforts, so we’re really excited to move forward with it.”
The annual Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index is released at the end of each year and scores hundreds of cities and municipalities in the United States on things like non-discrimination laws, municipal services, and leadership in LGBTQ+ equality.
Eight cities in Utah were scored in 2020. Salt Lake City scored the highest with 75 points out of a possible 100. Park City, on the other hand, finished second to last with 37 points. Only the city of West Jordan in the Salt Lake Valley scored lower in Utah with 36.
The Human Rights Campaign did not respond to KPCW’s request for comment on this story, but an FAQ webpage for the Municipal Equality Index states that the scores are not a ranking of how good or bad a city is for the LGBTQ+ community. The page says high scoring cities may not be as LGBTQ+-friendly as their score might suggest, and vice-versa.
In fact, Many of the index’s criteria are only applicable for much larger cities or out of the city’s control entirely. State and county laws regarding employment, housing, and public accommodations are part of each city’s score. If there is no state or county non-discrimination law, but the city has one, they only get partial credit.
According to city staff, even though the index is scored out of 100, Park City’s highest possible score is actually closer to 73.
Lynn Ware Peek is Park City Municipal’s Community Engagement Liaison and is part of the internal city hall task force that worked on the equality index. She said the scores were initially frustrating, but was able to talk with the HRC to understand exactly what they are looking for.
According to her, many of the city’s missing points for things like partner benefits and gender-neutral bathrooms are just a few minor changes away.
“Luckily, as we said in the meeting last night, we were able to meet [with] the representative from the Municipal Equality Index in DC, finally, after a long time of not being able to,” Ware Peek Said. “He assured us that with just some very little adjustments, those points, we basically already earned.”
Executive Director of Equality Utah Troy Williams added at Thursday’s meeting that the equality index can be a very difficult thing to score highly on, as he has experienced with the annual State Equality Index.
“I’ve had many battles with HRC over points over the SEI -- the State Equality Index -- and we will fight for every point possible,” he said.
Aspen, Colorado is a city similar to Park City listed in the index. They scored a 61 in the 2020 index and it was decided on Thursday night that meeting or exceeding Aspen’s score would be the city’s goal for 2021.
Langan said that goal is well within reach for Park City.
“The areas in which we’re able to get points are definitely doable and if we have the community support to do that, I think that it’s just going to require some extra elbow grease on the city side, which we are ready to do,” said Langan. “I absolutely think that this time next year, I anticipate our score being very, very close to that.”