Chapel Hill may not hold an annual Pride parade or boast a queer bar on Franklin Street, but a new study shows that the town is working to protect its LGBTQ+ residents.

Chapel Hill led North Carolina in the Human Rights Campaign’s newly released 2020 Municipal Equality Index, a study that inspects how different cities and towns compare in their protections of LGBTQ+ residents through policies and services offered by the municipality. Despite being one of the smallest qualifying areas in the state, Chapel Hill was named the only “MEI All-Star” in North Carolina, meaning it offers more protection for its queer residents without having state laws that require it.

Chapel Hill received an 86 out of 100, an eight-point increase from its 2019 score. A press release from the city notes that the increase is due to the recently-enacted Youth Bullying Prevention policy and because the town offers trans*-inclusive health benefits to its employees.

“We are honored to be recognized for the hard work of our Town Council and our employees in making our organization and our community an inviting place to work and reside,” Town Manager Maurice Jones said in a press release.

Other Triangle cities fared considerably worse: Raleigh received a 64, while Durham scored a 65. Carrboro, Chapel Hill’s weird sibling, scored a higher-than-average 76 to make third place, while Greensboro came in second with a 79. Cary, in all its grandeur, got a zero. Yikes.

Raleigh lost the most points for failing to create an LGBTQ+ Task Force for law enforcement, as well as not having an LGBTQ+ liaison in the mayor’s office. Meanwhile, Durham lost the most points for its lack of services for LGBTQ+ folks. The Human Rights Campaign recorded that the Bull City didn’t offer services for older LGBTQ+ folks, services for people living with HIV/AIDs, or services for the city’s trans* community. Meanwhile, Chapel Hill received points for all of these categories.

All three Triangle cities, however, fail to create local laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This is no fault of their own—until this past Tuesday, North Carolina municipalities were banned from creating protections for their LGBTQ+ communities, thanks to the aftermath of H.B. 2 settlements. This meant none of the municipalities protect queer folks from discrimination in housing, employment, or public services.

Hopefully, this means Chapel Hill can make it to a perfect score in 2021. We’re counting on Cary to improve its embarrassingly low score, too.

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