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Lindsey and Megan Smith, from left to right, Ashley and Dawn Collins and Cody Layne listen at a rally in response to a federal court opinion that upheld state bans on gay marriage at the Walnut St. Bridge in Chattanooga on Nov. 7, 2014.
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STATEWIDE SCORES

The whole report can be viewed online at www.hrc.org/mei

Municipalities scored out of 100 points:

Atlanta: 100

Clarksville: 14

Chattanooga: 23

Huntsville: 4

Knoxville: 36

Memphis: 46

Nashville: 75

Source: www.hrc.org/mei

Chattanooga's Scorecard:

Non-discrimination laws: 0/18

Relationship recognition: 0/12

Municipality as employer: 0/29 (two bonus points were earned for "inclusive workplace")

Municipal services: 0/15

Law enforcement: 10/18

Relationship with the LGBT community: 8/8 (three bonus points were earned for "openly LGBT elected or appointed

municipal leaders")

Source: www.hrc.org/mei

Chattanooga lags behind the nation in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, according to a report released Wednesday by the Human Rights Campaign.

This is the organization's third annual report assessing LGBT equality in 353 cities nationwide, including five municipalities in Tennessee.

The report, referred to as the Municipal Equality Index, is the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion that examines municipal law and policy.

Tennessee's average score for 2014 is 39 out of 100 points, falling below the national average of 59. Chattanooga also trails the state average, scoring 23 points. In contrast, Nashville received the highest mark in the state with a score of 75. Alabama's average score is 5.6, and Georgia's is 38.75.

In 2013, Chattanooga scored 15 points.

Chattanooga only scored well in one of six categories examined. The city received a perfect score in the portion of the study that examined the city's leadership's commitment to include the LGBT community and to advocate for full equality. Chattanooga also picked up points because of 2012's high rate of reported hate crimes, according to the report.

Councilman Chris Anderson said 10 of the points Chattanooga earned are probably due to him being elected to the City Council, as he was the first openly gay elected official to win a contested race in the state.

Anderson believes Chattanooga scored lower than other cities in the state because, unlike Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis -- Chattanooga does not have an ordinance protecting LGBT employees from discrimination. He also believes voters' decision not to pass the domestic partner benefits ordinance for city employees earlier this year influenced the city's low score.

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Wives Megan, left, and Lindsey Smith hold one another while Tennessee Equality Project co-Chairman Kat Cooper speaks at a rally in response to a federal court opinion that upheld state bans on gay marriage hosted by the Tennessee Equality Project at the Walnut Street Bridge on Friday.

"I think society progresses, and Chattanooga is a progressive city," Anderson said. "I see us growing toward acceptance of all people ... It just takes time."

Todd Dockery, director of human resources for the city, said in a written statement, "The City of Chattanooga is committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce. Although the Non-Discrimination Ordinance was recently repealed, we do not discriminate based on gender or sexual orientation."

Dockery also said that harassment due to sexual orientation is not tolerated and is immediately and thoroughly investigated by the city's human resource department.

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, "From Mississippi to Idaho, mid-size cities and small towns have become the single greatest engine of progress for LGBT equality -- changing countless lives for the better."

In the past three years, the number of cities earning top marks for their treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens has tripled, according to Griffin.

"Simply put, in this country there is an ongoing race to the top to treat all people, including LGBT people, fairly under the law, and it's time our state and federal laws caught up," he said.

Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at kendi.anderson@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6592.

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