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How Does Houston Score On LGBT Equality?

A new report puts Houston behind other major Texas cities.

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Houston’s score in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI)

Every year, the Municipal Equality Index takes a snapshot of the state of equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) citizens in hundreds of American cities.  

Some of the larger cities in Texas score very high on the index. But Houston has some room for improvement. 

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign looked at policies in more than 350 U.S. cities, including nearly two dozen in Texas. Austin achieved a perfect score of 100. Dallas scored 91, and Fort Worth scored 83 (though many DFW suburbs scored between 0 and 22). San Antonio checks in with a 72. 

“These cities are getting every single point they’re earning. They are not getting any benefit from marriage equality.  They are not getting any benefit from a statewide non-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Cathryn Oakley, legislative counsel with the HRC. 

Houston didn’t do as well as its big-city rivals, with an MEI score of 54

“Even at a 54, I should just point out the national average is 59. It’s really important to recognize that 54 points is a lot more than a lot of other cities have.  And, in Texas, 54 points is nothing to sneeze at,” said Oakley. 

The highest-scoring cities in Texas, and elsewhere, have comprehensive non-discrimination policies, and they’ve expanded benefits for domestic partners of city employees.  Those are two things Houston doesn’t have right now because of legal challenges, including some filed against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO. 

“I think once some of these lawsuits settle down and people are able to access these really critically important non-discrimination protections and benefits, the score is going to reflect that those things have taken place,” said Oakley. 

Oakley says another thing that will raise Houston’s score is the creation of a civil rights commission to handle discrimination complaints. If the city is able to adopt those recommendations, its score could go up by as much as 30 points. 

 

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David Pitman

David Pitman

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David was HPM’s local Morning Edition host from 2009 to 2020 -- when he was moved to the position of Technical Director of Houston Matters with Craig Cohen, and Town Square with Ernie Manouse. David has extensive public and commercial broadcast journalism and production experience dating back to 1993 –...

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