Study says Roanoke is behind other cities in LGBTQ equality

Members of the LGBTQ community say they feel welcomed in the Star City

ROANOKE, Va. – A new study shows Roanoke is far behind other Virginia cities in equal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, but community members say they feel welcomed in Roanoke.

The Human Rights Campaign gave the Star City a rating of 24 out of 100 in its findings last week. The study focused mostly on laws protecting equality for members of the LGBTQ community, like treatment at work.

Roanoke Diversity Center Chairman Bernard Alvarez agrees that cities need these equality laws.

"I’m completely dumbfounded,” he said. “I couldn't understand how there wasn't any legislation in place to protect transgender people or LGBT people as a whole when it came to housing or employment."

Many other states and localities have more protections written in law than Virginia.

Despite the study results, Alvarez says LGBTQ members are happy being in Roanoke.

“It’s surprisingly very accepting,” he said. "[It’s] completely open, people walking down the street holding hands, kissing. We are the liberal, blue dot in a red county for lack of a better term.”

That acceptance extends to city leaders, according to Alvarez..

"I've always felt that the governmental officials, whether it be the police or city hall, have always been friendly of our efforts at the Roanoke Diversity Center,” he said.

Alvarez believes America has plenty of work still to do for equal treatment.

"Unfortunately, the current climate has made it a very divisive issue,” he said.

Virginia's rating is below the national average. The findings show the country as a whole is progressing in LGBTQ equality issues.