When it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, Texas cities could not be further apart. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) just released its third annual report assessing LGBT equality in 353 U.S. locales. Although Austin scored a perfect 100, four Texas cities out of 22 scored a big fat zero.
The 2014 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), the only nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law and policy, shows that cities across the country continue to take the lead in supporting LGBT people and workers, even when states and the federal government have not. However, even though Dallas falls right behind Austin with 91 points and Fort Worth has a respectable 83, the average score for Texas cities is 28 — dragged down by zeros in Irving, Lubbock, McAllen and Mesquite.
Houston's score was dragged down by scoring only one point out of 18 on non-discrimination laws and zero out of 12 points on relationship recognition.
As for the other Texas cities, only San Antonio, with a score of 72, rose above the national average of 59; Houston fell just below it at 54.
Houston's score was dragged down by scoring only one point out of 18 on non-discrimination laws and zero out of 12 points on relationship recognition. However, the city scored 18 out of 18 points in fair enforcement of the law and bonus points for openly GLBT elected officials.
Eight cities scored 20 or below: Amarillo (14), Arlington (11), Brownsville (20), Corpus Christi (16), Garland (10), Grand Prairie (11), Laredo (2) and McKinney (12).
The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:
- Non-discrimination laws
- Relationship recognition
- Municipality’s employment policies, including transgender-inclusive insurance coverage, contracting non-discrimination requirements and other policies relating to equal treatment of LGBT city employees
- Inclusiveness of city services
- Law enforcement
- Municipal leadership on matters of equality
“As a fifth-generation Texan, the MEI is both encouraging and heartbreaking,” said Michelle Stafford, of the Transgender Education Network of Texas, in a statement. “Encouraging in that a few of our major cities are showing progress and are making efforts in the right direction. Heartbreaking because in this state that prides itself on its friendliness and on the right of the individual to express himself, so much of the LGBT population living in Texas continues to live in fear of expressing who they really are.
“This state which is so great in cultural diversity, economic diversity, racial diversity, educational diversity, religions diversity and natural diversity must extend this diversity to sexual orientation and gender expression to retain its greatness.”
“The MEI scores prove that through our efforts continued progress is achievable,” said Chuck Smith of Equality Texas. “However, the 2014 MEI results also show us that there is much more work to be done.”
The cities researched for the 2014 MEI include the 50 state capitals; the 200 most populous cities in the country; the four largest cities in every state; the city home to each state’s largest public university; and an equal mix of 75 of the nation’s large, mid-size and small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
Thirty-eight cities earned perfect 100-point scores, up from 25 in 2013 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI.
CultureMap editor-in-chief Clifford Pugh contributed to this article.