The city of Riverside announced on December 22 that it received the highest score possible on a yearly nationwide assessment of L.G.B.T.Q. inclusion by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson spoke with City Councilmember Erin Edwards about the work that made the score possible.
Councilmember Edwards, the city’s first openly L.G.B.T.Q. member, says the perfect score puts Riverside on the map and acknowledges the hard work of advocates.
“It really indicates the power of visibility," said Edwards. "You know when I ran for office, my partner Liz and I, we agonized just putting our family photo on a campaign mailer. And ultimately we decided to do it because we felt it was important to be visible.”
Her 2019 election was one of the things that helped improve the city’s score on non-discrimination and inclusion related to sexual orientation and gender identities. The score has now improved two years in a row. It went from 65 in 2018, to a 91 in 2019 and now a 100 in 2020.
“This score of 100 is not just something that happened to Riverside, it’s something that we worked for,” said Edwards.
A year ago, her office, department heads and the city manager’s office, sat down to look at ways they could intentionally improve. They came up with policies and actions that prohibited discrimination in city employment, offered benefits for domestic partners of city employees, and added an L.G.B.T.Q. liaison in the city manager’s office.
Edwards said the arrival of this positive news during a very challenging year could not have come at a better time.
“We know the holidays can be a very difficult time for people in the queer community," said Edwards. "And especially now with young people who might be sheltering at home, who are exploring their identity or haven’t yet come out to their families. I hope that hearing that Riverside earned a perfect score on the municipal equality index, I hope that will say to them, that as a city we are proud and we care and that we are accepting of all people.”
She says while she will celebrate the news, the report card does show the city has work to do in terms of offering services to L.G.B.T.Q. youth, homeless and seniors.
“I really believe and I see in the community that we are doing some of this work already, but we need to strengthen that work," said Edwards. "We need to shout from the rooftops about what we are doing so people know about those services and the groups in the community that are already committed to this work, and make sure that we continue it.”
For her, that means continuing to focus on city policies, visibility and telling the stories of Riverside’s L.G.B.T.Q. community.