At a time when many states have failed to pass LGBTQ-inclusive laws and policies, cities are stepping up to ensure that all citizens are treated equally, according to a report issued today by HRC.
HRC’s 2017 Municipal Equality Index (MEI) shows that around the country cities are fueling momentum for LGBTQ equality -- and often are doing so in states that still don’t have LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination laws at the state level.
In Texas, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio earned over 85 points on the 2017 MEI despite hailing from a state without LGBTQ-inclusive statewide non-discrimination laws. Across the country, 41 cities like these set a standard of LGBTQ inclusiveness with exemplary, best-practice policies such as local non-discrimination laws, providing transgender-inclusive health benefits for city employees and offering LGBTQ-inclusive city services.
Shining like beacons of hope, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio earned one of HRC’s 41 MEI “All Star” designations. MEI All Stars are cities nationwide that are excelling by advancing LGBTQ equality without relying on state law. This year, Austin earned a 100, Dallas earned a 100, Fort Worth earned a 100 and San Antonio earned a 95.
The average score for cities in Texas is 41 out of 100 points, which falls below the national average of 57.
“This year’s MEI paints a vivid picture: cities big and small, in red and blue states alike, are continuing our progress toward full equality, regardless of the political drama unfolding in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the country,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “Today, the MEI serves as a vital tool for business leaders and municipal officials alike when it comes to economic development. CEOs know that in order to attract and retain the best employees, they must grow their companies in places that protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination and actively open their doors to all communities. The MEI is the best tool to help these businesses make crucial evaluations about the welcoming -- or unwelcoming -- nature of towns and cities across the nation.”
“The Municipal Equality Index (MEI) is a snapshot of where we are in this fight and where we as a unified community need to focus our energy and efforts in order to continue to expand fairness and equality for all Texans. It is unfortunate that the 85th Legislature did not make it a priority to expand statewide protections for LGBTQ Texans in housing, employment and public accommodation. Equality Texas applauds the municipalities that have been dedicated in their efforts to create safe and welcoming communities where all of their residents are protected from discrimination,” said Equality Texas Chief Executive Officer Chuck Smith. “We look forward to building on these successes by continuing to work with local leaders in municipalities across Texas to further expand these vital protections. We have a long way to go toward full equality in our state, but together we have built an unprecedented movement of grassroots supporters dedicated to inclusion and equality.”
Since the MEI’s debut in 2012, the number of cities earning perfect scores has increased by more than sixfold, and today at least 24 million people live in cities that have more comprehensive, transgender-inclusive non-discrimination laws than their state.
Progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across America this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked -- and encouraged -- since 2012. Transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits are offered to employees of 111 municipalities this year -- up from 86 in 2016, 66 in 2015 and just five in 2012. The MEI’s Issue Brief on Transgender-Inclusive Health Benefits is available here.
Other key findings from the 2017 Municipal Equality Index include:
- 86 cities from states without comprehensive nondiscrimination laws protecting LGBTQ people scored above the overall nationwide average of 57 points. These cities averaged 84-point scores; 28 scored a perfect 100.
- Cities continue to excel even in the absence of inclusive state laws: 41“All Star” cities in states lacking comprehensive non-discrimination laws scored above 85 points, up from 37 last year, 31 in 2016, 15 in 2014, eight in 2013, and just two in 2012.
- The national city score average increased from 55 to 57 points. 68 cities scored 100 points; 25 percent scored over 79 points; 50 percent scored over 59 points; 25 percent scored less than 36; and 11 cities scored zero points.
The MEI rated 506 cities including the 50 state capitals, the 200 largest cities in the United States, the five largest cities or municipalities in each state, the cities home to the state’s two largest public universities, municipalities that have high proportions of same-sex couples and 98 cities selected by HRC and Equality Federation state group members and supporters. It assesses each city on 44 criteria covering citywide nondiscrimination protections, policies for municipal employees, city services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s relationship with the LGBTQ community. Starting in 2018, the MEI will introduce new criteria including protecting youth from “conversion therapy” and will deduct points for religious exemptions that allow discrimination by singling out LGBTQ people.
The full report, including detailed scorecards for every city, as well as a searchable database, is available online at www.hrc.org/mei.