By John Wright
Houston received a score of 75—its highest ever—on the Human Rights Campaign’s sixth annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI), released Thursday.
The MEI is the only nationwide rating system of LGBTQ inclusion in municipal law and policy. (However, the MEI does not claim to measure overall LGBTQ quality-of-life, such as the number of bars, nonprofit organizations, sports leagues, or just plain hotties on Grindr.)
Houston’s 2017 MEI rating is above the average scores of 41 points among 25 Texas cities and 57 points among 506 cities nationwide. Houston received scores of 71 in 2016, 48 in 2015, 54 in 2014, 63 in 2013, and 52 in 2012.
The city missed out on 30 points in 2017 for not having an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was repealed by voters in November 2015 based on a fear-mongering lie.
Houston also lost 6 points for not offering transgender-inclusive health benefits to municipal employees. But the city picked up bonus points in several categories, including for providing services to LGBTQ youth, homeless people and elders. (Unfortunately, no bonus points were awarded for rainbow-colored crosswalks.)
Overall, a record 68 cities earned perfect scores of 100 for advancing LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices in 2017—up from 60 in 2016, 47 in 2015 and 11 in 2012, the first year of the MEI.
“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.”
Although Houston received its highest score to date, it still ranks below other major Texas cities on the MEI, thanks to the repeal of HERO. Austin (100), Dallas (100), Fort Worth (100) and San Antonio (95) were named “All Star” cities in 2017 for receiving scores of 85 or above.
Elsewhere in the Southeast Texas region, Pasadena received a score of 20, while College Station clocked in at 18. For more info on the MEI, go here. Check out Houston’s full report card, as well as the scores of other Texas cities, below.