GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – The City of Greenville could soon be a more welcoming place for the LGBTQ+ community. Council unanimously approved a resolution on Monday night, to make that happen.
A Municipal Equality Index (MEI) Scoreboard showed in 2021, Greenville scored historically very low in terms of how those of the LGBTQ+ community are treated.
Now, the city is appointing a liaison to help change that narrative.
“Greenville has scored historically very low on that particularly compared to our peer cities, so we really want to improve on that. I do think our rating will come up in 2022, but in the meantime, there are policy initiatives, that could benefit the city both on an economic development and on an inclusivity basis,” said Dorothy Dowe, Greenville City Council.
“So, this resolution allows us to appoint a staff liaison to work with the LGBT+ Chamber to review and develop policy as needed to improve our inclusivity of the city,” Dowe said. “The reason this is so impactful, is of course inclusivity as a city is one of our priorities,” she said.
“The city is going to support our committee. We have a handful of business leaders all across Greenville. We’re coming together to help push Greenville towards making better policies. So, they’re sending their LGBT liaison to be a member of that committee, and to report back to the city council,” said Tyler Prescott, CEO of Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce.
Whether it’s in the daily grind, or in housing, some residents acknowledge life can be hard for some in the LGBTQ+ community.
“I am an advocate for the LGBT community. I am a part of the LGBT community, but on top of that, I am a part of many communities. I’m a woman. I’m a queer person. I’m a woman of color. I’m a person of color, and when we look at Greenville, Greenville hasn’t always been inclusive of all of those spaces,” said Caroline Caldwell, President-Elect LGBT+ Chamber of Commerce SC.
“It’s difficult to be a business owner. It’s difficult to be a queer person who owns a business, and I just want to make that a little bit easier,” Prescott said.
“Greenville City doesn’t necessarily have a non-discrimination or actually Greenville County as well, doesn’t necessarily have a non-discrimination policy that protects LGBTQ+ people in housing…doesn’t protect them in employment,” Caldwell said.
“So, if you don’t have those major protections, how do you then recruit people to come here. I can’t get my friends who I know are a part of this community and extremely talented to live here, because there’s not enough support and protections here,” Caldwell said.
“A lot of people in our community, two husbands, two wives with kids, they’re asked to leave, or they go to sign a lease and when they show up, it’s like, ‘Oh, I’m sorry I rented that apartment.’ Right, and there’s no kick back. There’s nothing they can do to fight that discrimination,” Caldwell said.
Prescott said a Human Rights Campaign scoreboard shows the city is lagging behind.
“Our big thing is economic empowerment for everybody, queer people and allies,” Prescott said. “When we talked to large enterprise businesses, what they’re telling us is they look at metrics for how well cities treat queer people. How well cities treat women, and how well cities treat racial minorities, and Greenville is lagging behind in how well they treat all of those, but also lagging behind in how well they treat the LGBT community,” Prescott said.
“When we look at the news and we hear bad news for LGBT people all the time, people don’t want to move here for those reasons. Want to make it easier to move here, easier to stay here. Easier to be a citizen of Greenville as a LGBT person,” Prescott said.
Prescott said the committee will get to work.
“One of the things that we’re going to suggest for them to look at is the Human Rights Campaign puts out a survey every year in municipalities. They call it the MEI index. They rate cities on a score of zero to 100. Our neighbors in Columbia and Charleston scored in the 80s. In 2021, Greenville scored a 33,” Prescott said.
Leaders with the Upstate SC LGBT+ Chamber said the liaison will be key in promoting inclusion and a better quality of life for all.
“Now, we have to put in protections right for all of our communities. Employment protections right–trans health benefits right, things that address who a person is, and their rights to just be taken care of as they work,” Caldwell said.
“Five years from now I hope that we have achieved everything that this committee lays out and that when large enterprise business and small business and individuals look for places to move across the United States, especially in the Southeast, they think Greenville is a good place,” Prescott said.
“This commission will be able to help the city and hopefully some of that will bleed over into the county to build policies of protections, so that people can truly have a quality life here in Greenville,” Caldwell said.
Dowe said once the city manager appoints the staff liaison, that person will be meeting with the committee regularly, possibly monthly.
“In terms of the LGBT+ Chamber work, that work has been ongoing with our HR department. Once the city manager appoints the staff liaison, they should be meeting regularly, probably monthly to review policy, and then if they have policy adjustments that they want to bring to council, that liaison will bring it to council for consideration and a vote,” Dowe said.