The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute, recently released its fifth annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI). The MEI assesses LGBTQ equality in 506 cities across the nation, including 25 in Texas.
The MEI rates cities based on 44 criteria that fall into five broad categories. Those categories include non-discrimination laws, municipal employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage and non-discrimination requirements for contractors, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement, including hate crimes reporting, and municipal leadership on matters of equality.
If you’ve been paying attention to the City of Austin’s policies over the past few years, it should come as no surprise that Austin scored a perfect 100 on the index. The index reflects LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy, showing “that cities across the country, including in Texas, continue to take the lead in supporting LGBTQ people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not,” according to a press release.
This is one of those few times that we are actually glad to see some of our fellow cities ranking as high as Austin on a list, with Dallas, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio earning a score of 95 or higher. However, many other Texas towns have a long way to go, as the average score of the 25 Lone Star State cities on the list was 39, falling below the national average of 55. Sadly, College Station, Irving, and Laredo all came in last place on the list, each with a score of 6.
“Municipal protections are especially important in Texas since their are no statewide nondiscrimination protections,” said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas. “In the coming year, it will be critically important to ensure that any attempts by the Texas Legislature to roll back any existing municipal protections are defeated.”
From the press release:
For LGBTQ Americans, legal protections and benefits vary widely depending on location — states and cities have markedly different laws governing discrimination. 20 states have non-discrimination laws that include protections for LGBTQ people in employment, and 19 states have laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in places of public accommodation. But cities are leading the way: more than 24 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive laws for transgender people than the states do. And that’s an important part of how 135 million Americans — 42 percent of the population — are covered under LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws. The effort to achieve full equality continues, and the MEI remains a crucial tool in evaluating the patchwork of LGBTQ policies and practices in cities and towns across the nation.