When it comes to LGBTQ equality, three Texas cities are leading the way. The Human Rights Campaign has released its 2016 Municipal Equality Index, and Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth earn perfect scores.
The MEI is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy. The index rates 506 U.S. cities on 44 criteria in five categories: non-discrimination laws, employment policies, city services, law enforcement fairness, and municipal relationships.
To receive a perfect score of 100, cities must satisfy all criteria in each category; Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth are the only Texas cities to do so. This is the fourth year that Austin has received a 100; it's the second year for Dallas and the first for Fort Worth.
San Antonio (95), Plano (74), and Houston (71) lag behind the other major Texas cities. To rate more highly, San Antonio and Houston need to improve transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits (both cities score zero), and Houston has much room for improvement regarding non-discrimination laws (the city scores zero out of 30).
With 57 points, El Paso is just above the national average of 55. The average of the 25 Texas cities studied is only 39. The three lowest ranking cities, College Station, Irving, and Laredo, earn six points each.
Overall, the report implies that equality is improving in the U.S. A total of 60 cities earn perfect scores, and cities that have been rated all five years have improved their scores by approximately 20 points.
"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," said HRC president Chad Griffin in a statement. "This builds on a trend we have long observed: that local governments are at the forefront of our fight for equality."