Cities Journal
City Life

Cities Beat States in LGBT Rights


A report from the Human Rights Campaign shows that cities are way ahead of states in passing laws barring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender resident.

The Municipal Equality Index scores cities from 0 to 100 on their friendliness toward LGBT community by determining whether their laws support equality for all. Cities at the top are Tucson, Boston and Kansas City. Five cities, one in Mississippi and four in Texas, unfortunately scored a zero.

To score 100 points, HRC considers such things as whether a city prohibits employment discrimination, offers domestic partner benefits, provides transgender-inclusive health care and protects students from bullying because of their sexual orientation.

Chuck Smith, executive director at Equality Texas, said cities have to take actions locally.

“Municipalities do it on their own because the state isn’t taking care of it. If they want their city to be vibrant and a welcoming environment, they need to do something locally.”

Texas, which has no such laws and is home to four out of the five cities that scored a zero, has two cities with top rankings: Austin, with 100 points, and Dallas, with 91.

“There is even competition between cities.”

Worcester, Mass., New England’s second-largest city, was among the cities with a low rating in 2013. That horrified new City Manager Ed Augustus, who said he wanted the city to be “a leader in human rights and equality.” The city scored a 55.

“I don’t think a lot of people realized our low ranking until they saw it. People jumped right on board to make changes.”

This year, Worcester scored 100.

Other cities struggle with making such changes. Springfield, Mo., which scored 27, is engaged in a debate over a recently approved ordinance making it illegal to refuse someone a job or deny them housing based on sexual orientation.

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