PITTSBURGH — A big announcement from the city of Pittsburgh is that city employees and their dependents can now get gender reassignment surgery as part of their employee medical plan.
The announcement came while the city was spotlighted in a national inclusion and diversity study.
The original point of Wednesday's event was for the Human Rights Campaign to honor the city for its work.
There is an annual survey that determines how good a city is when it comes to equality.
Pittsburgh scored 100. The announcement from Peduto was a surprise and took over the event as many people wanted to know more about it.
"We are now offering coverage for surgical treatment for gender affirmation," Mayor Bill Peduto said Wednesday afternoon.
The announcement came as a surprise, but not for those working to make the city more inclusive.
While Pittsburgh was honored for its perfect score, Peduto took it a step further, announcing surgical treatment for gender affirmation will be covered for all city employees and their dependents.
"Certainly we want to be able to allow everyone to live their life to their full potential. By doing this we're guaranteeing our employees have that ability," Peduto said.
It's another step in the right direction for Ciora Thomas, who is part of the mayor's LGBTQIA council.
Four years ago, she was homeless and living in Point State Park, a place where many other trans people found themselves.
"Most importantly the willingness to listen," Thomas said. "When you get to a point where you're so low, that's when you start recognizing that we need to do something."
Now she's a spokesperson for progress and is proud of the city for taking steps to improve LGBTQIA equality and wants to see even more done.
But she knows from helping trans people who are homeless, plenty of work remains.
"It's good to sit back and think how far we are, but it's also worth thinking about how far we have to go.," Thomas said.
Austin, Toledo and Chicago also have similar programs for their employees.
The equality index report that sparked Wednesday's announcement had Pittsburgh as one of 68 cities to get a perfect score. Philadelphia did too.
The index looks at the city's non-discrimination laws, police force and city services for the LGBT community.
The Human Rights Campaign says businesses should use the scorecard to decide on the best cities for investment.
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