|By the looks on this picture it looks like a big city with the typical resident on a big city. Too smart and too cold. Not Rochester! The city is cold in the winter but the people are the warmest, polite, educated people.|
Rochester received a perfect score Monday from a prominent national gay-rights group for the city's non-discrimination policies.
The 100 score for the city was the third year in a row it has received the top ranking from the Human Rights Campaign, the Washington D.C.-based advocacy group.
The group is pushing cities to install stronger anti-discrimination laws, scoring 506 cities across the nation, including 10 in New York.
The average score for cities in New York was 87 out of 100 points. The national average was 55.
[[ When my company gave me a choice of a few cities were they were moving in and my choice of which one would I have to pick to open a new outlet, I asked for Rochester because I wanted to stay in New York State, knowing that New Yorkers tend to be go getters and hard workers. Even outside of New York City. I ask other managers if that sense was true for upstate New York and others thought the same way. So Rochester it was and I found myself in a small city with a strong grass roots community in civil affairs and proud motivated gay residents. I never expected to find a gay bar yet there were several, nor did I expect gay couples yet I found many that did not seem to be too concern about what people thought. Couples that had been together for many years. As a matter of fact everybody seemed to be partnered just like I was at the time. The single ones seemed to be closeted or transplants from other places.
The residents of this town are extra nice particularly if you come from a big city like NYC but finding gays born there and also transplanted there attracted by this beautiful city with its small but interesting work-thriving downtown area. There were guys from cities along the notheast and even from Puerto Rico which surprised me plenty. I am glad to see they still maintain that good sense of community and good gay neighborly ways. I am sure there are girls too but my experience was with guys. I still think how much fun I had in that little town. I even made it to the Jerry Lewis Telethon and was on TV to give a check from my company. I never forget coming back home after a night out on a snowy sunday evening. As I was cutting thru the center of town trying to avoid the thruway because of the snow I got a flat tired by hitting the side of the sidewalk making a turn which I did not see because of the snow collected there. A police car approached with blue lights on. I figured he saw me make the turn (there was a left turn sign which I did not see) and now was a ticket time. The police officer was about my age, which made him young and was very neighborly and polite. Trying to make conversation and trying to give an excuse I told him I was new in town and I did not know the roads too well. I gave him a business card so he would know I was no bs’ him. He ask me for the tools to change the tired and started changing the tire himself. I felt so bad I told him not to bother, he said I was well dressed and he did not want me to get dirty. I never had a better encounter with a cop nor with another motorist ever before nor after as far as that is concern. That was Rochester. I was only there less than a year before they send me to Buffalo. I always miss Rochester and proud to have lived there. Adam Gonzalez, Publisher]]
"I’m not surprised that the city of Rochester was able to score a full 100. The city has a long history of really doing the right thing on behalf of the LGBTQ community, and in making sure the right systems are in place," said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley.
LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and either queer or questioning. Queer used to be considered a derogatory term, but the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that lobbies for LGBT rights told USA Today in 2015 that people now use the term because it is not specific to sexual orientation or gender identity and is more of an umbrella term that can encompass a lot of people.
There have been times that the Gay Alliance, one of the nation's oldest LGBTQ advocacy groups, had to help prod the city government forward. It took months of lobbying before the city agreed to extend benefits to domestic partners, as it did in 1994, and to improve police relations with the gay and lesbian communities. The group also had to sue in the early 1990s to force the city to accept its nonprofit status.
Fast-forward to recent times. "I have been very impressed with the city in all different aspects, in all different departments. We have good relations with the police," said Fearing, who has worked with the Gay Alliance for seven years and been executive director for three.
Rochester was one of four cities in New York to get a perfect score and one of 60 nationally.
Albany, New York City and Yonkers were the others in the state. Buffalo got a 95, and Syracuse received a 94.
“This year, dozens of cities across the nation showed they are willing to stand up for LGBTQ people in their communities even when some state governments are not,” Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Campaign president, said in a statement.
In 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature legalized same-sex marriage, the largest state at the time to do so.
After opposition in the Republican-led Senate, Cuomo took executive action last year to put in place regulations to protect transgender New Yorkers from discrimination.
The report said that in many states, however, local governments and cities have more progressive laws on gay rights.
The group deducted points from cities that have laws prohibiting individuals from "using public facilities consistent with their gender identity" and added points "to recognize cities that are offering transgender-specific city services."
Rochester fared well because of its non-discrimination laws; "transgender-inclusive insurance coverage;" elected gay officials, as well as a LGBTQ liaison in the city.
One of the main differences between Rochester and its other upstate cities is that Rochester has a LGBTQ police liaison or task force, which Buffalo did not, the report said.
The other difference is that Syracuse didn't reported 2014 Hate Crimes statistics to the FBI, while Rochester did, according to the report.
Fearing noted the state Senate's refusal to pass the transgender non-discrimination law, and said it might be helpful for Monroe County to adopt such a measure. He said the county government generally has not been supportive of LGBTQ rights, and a decade ago engaged in a high-profile legal fight to deny benefits to same-sex spouses of county employees who had been married in other states before New York legalized such unions.
"Maybe we need to try to get the County Legislature to look at transgender protections," Fearing said. "We hear from them regularly, (transgender) people who are neither employed in nor citizens of the city of Rochester proper."
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren also cited the city's traditions in response to the latest ratings.
“Rochester has a long history of being a diverse and welcoming city,” Warren said. “I think Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass are proudly looking down at us, knowing that when it comes to modern day issues of equality and social justice, the city that they loved still leads the way. I would like to thank the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for recognizing Rochester as a city that values equality.”
Joseph Spector is chief of USA TODAY Network’s Albany Bureau.
If you are reading this in Rochester, just say hi on the comments. Alright?