From the inbox:
A new report on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality in America’s cities by the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT civil rights organization, in partnership with the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute, rated 137 cities across the nation, including seven Texas cities. TheMunicipal Equality Index (MEI), the first ever nationwide rating system of LGBT inclusion in municipal law found many U.S. cities lack sufficient protections for LGBT people, while many cities diligently protect their LGBT workers and citizens. The average score for cities in Texas is 60 out of 100 points, which is in line with the national average. Arlington scored 16 points, Austin scored 91 points, Dallas scored 76 points, El Paso scored 49 points, Fort Worth scored 89 points, Houston scored 52 points, and San Antonio scored 48 points.
Key findings from the MEI create a snapshot of LGBT equality in 137 municipalities of varying sizes drawn from every state in the nation – these include the 50 state capitals, the 50 most populous cities in the country, and the 25 large, 25 mid-size, and 25 small municipalities with the highest proportion of same-sex couples.
The 100-point cities in the MEI serve as shining examples of LGBT inclusivity, with excellent policies ranging from non-discrimination laws, equal employee benefits, and cutting-edge city services. As America moves forward in support of LGBT equality, cities across the country are on the forefront of this movement. Cities in every region of the country are fighting for equality at the most intimate level of government. At the same time, cities across the country also have room for improvement. The MEI articulates a path forward and celebrates the success of cities doing this important work.
MEI at a glance:
• Eleven of the 137 cities surveyed earned a perfect score of 100 points – these cities came from both coasts and in between, were of varying sizes, and not all are in states with favorable laws for LGBT people;
• A quarter of the cities rated scored over 80 points;
• 45 percent of cites surveyed obtained a score of 60 or higher;
• Nearly a third of cites scored between 40 and 60 points, showing good intentions on behalf of municipal governments but also opportunity for improvement; and
• Just under a quarter of the cities scored less than 20 points, including eight cities that scored under ten points and three that scored zero.
The MEI rates cities based on 47 criteria falling under six broad categories:
• Non-discrimination laws;
• Relationship recognition;
• The municipality’s employment practices;
• Inclusiveness of city services;
• Law enforcement; and
• Municipal leadership.
In today’s world, cities must compete for business and brain power. Research shows that to do this, they must treat their LGBT citizens with dignity and respect. Acclaimed Professor Richard Florida authored the forward for the MEI. Professor Florida is a pioneer in research into how the nurturing of a “creative class” (entrepreneurs, artists and architects, researchers, scientists, engineers, and other professionals) creates prosperous, economically competitive cities.
“Municipal work is especially important in Texas given the less-than-friendly (some would say “hostile”) current composition of the State Legislature,” said Equality Texas Foundation Executive Director Chuck Smith. “However, the environment for progressive policy change affecting LGBT Texans is considerably more positive at the local level with progressive mayors and/or council majorities in many of the state’s largest cities, including Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Fort Worth and San Antonio. It is these local efforts that will provide at least some level of equal protection at the municipal level until we are able to secure full equality statewide. The MEI is a valuable tool that we can use to measure our progress toward full equality in Texas,” Smith said.
“Our nation is on an irreversible path forward in LGBT equality and local and state-level advocacy ensures our voices are heard in public squares across the country” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “This index gives advocates and municipallawmakers a potent tool to improve the lives of LGBT people.”
“Advances at the local level are often unheralded, but they are critical to building the momentum we need for statewide and federal victories,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation Institute. “The Municipal EqualityIndex not only recognizes the remarkable progress that state equality groups and local partners have made in cities and towns across the country, but is a powerful tool to help push local governments to do better.”
“The freedom to be ourselves is most important where we live, work and raise our families. That’s why it’s so crucial that local and municipal governments understand the need to make life better for LGBT people. We work hard to make sure openly LGBT people participate in government as elected and appointed officials, and the MEI will be a great resource for them,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute.
The full report, including long form scorecards for every city and a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.
Check it out and see how your city rates. All I can say is that I’d like to see Houston’s score improve. There’s no reason for it to be below average.