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Missoula to Receive Natl. Ranking on LGBT Rights

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MISSOULA -

Missoula will receive a national Municipal Equality Index score this fall, which ranks cities based on their treatment of members of the gay community.

Officials said the Human Rights Campaign -- the organization leading the national LGBT rights movement -- will rank 150 cities across the country this year based on certain criteria.

City Council members here in Missoula said they've taken several efforts over the past few years to earn a high score on the index.

Caitlin Copple -- an openly gay member of the Missoula City Council -- said the Municipal Equality Index -- or MEI -- evaluates cities based on their non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition and how well a city treats its own LGBT employees.

"I felt like I had to leave my home state of Idaho to be who I was, and so, I was like, Montana, that seems better, you know because at least people here are little more live and let live," Copple said.

Copple said Missoula's current city laws and policies and its efforts to establish the domestic registry make the city a strong candidate for a high MEI score.

She added, "As our culture is changing, our expectations are changing, I really want Montana to keep up."

Copple said a high score signifies a more friendly and welcoming community, but it can actually help boost a city's appeal to outside business.

"Really the way a city treats its LGBT residents can serve as a proxy for how friendly you are toward difference -- toward entrepreneurialship, toward innovative technology," she explained.

This boost in outside business, coupled with a more inclusive environment will help keep the younger population living and working in Montana.

She said, "I think anything that we can do to show that we are, we're not this backwards place, and that we really care about our young people -- all our young people -- and we want to keep them here, I think that's a good thing."

Copple said Billings, Great Falls, and Helena will also receive scores this fall. She says Helena earned a score of only 15 last year.

"Any of these efforts that we're working on at the city level are not a replacement for the full relationship recognition that needs to come from the state," Copple said.

Copple added, almost every fortune 500 company across the country now honors a nondiscrimination policy that includes sexual orientation acceptance.

To learn more about the MEI, click here.

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