The city of Irving went from a score of 6 in 2017 to 32 in this year’s Municipal Equality Index, Human Rights Campaign’s annual rating of hundreds of U.S. cities.
Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin received a top score of 100. Houston, which repealed its equal rights ordinance, scored 70. Plano lost five points since last year to score 69. The difference seems to be in points awarded for similar items and removing an anti-bullying question.
During the last year, Irving added an LGBT police liaison. At the time of his appointment to the position, Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey said it was such an obvious thing to do. He said appointing Jerry Sanderford cost the city nothing and added a number of benefits including building trust between the LGBT community in Irving and the police and helping solve crime that occurred in Irving’s LGBT community. That earned the city 10 points.
Irving also appointed an LGBTQ liaison to the city’s executive office. Again the position isn’t full time but is a way to open community between city government and the LGBT community. That earned the city five points.
Irving received another 14 points for a non-discrimination policy that covers sexual orientation and gender identity in city employment. In addition, the MEI awarded Irving two points for “Leadership’s Public Position on LGBTQ Equality” and 1 point for “Leadership’s Pro-Equality Legislative or Policy Efforts.”
The leadership public position may have included Spivey’s statements about the importance of having a liaison and the pro-equality legislative or policy efforts may have come from opposing certain bills in the 2017 legislature that included the bathroom bill.
Last year, Irving received 6 points for its anti-bullying policy. That question wasn’t included in this year’s survey.
Arlington increased to a score of 48 from 44. The city added two points for additional protection in city employment, both for sexual orientation and gender identity. Five points were added for a liaison to the city council and mayor. The Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau has been actively working to increase tourism in the LGBT community and co-hosted Gay Day at Six Flags in September.
Denton went from 44 in 2017 to 52 this year after the city added an LGBT police liaison.
Other cities in the area scored poorly: Grand Prairie–27; Mesquite–17; Garland–14; McKinney–12.
HRC removed policies relating to schools because in states like Texas, the school district is its own governing body and school districts don’t coincide with city boundaries. For example, Houston got credit for Houston ISD policies, even though half of the city is in the Cy-Fair ISD where several anti-LGBT incidents occurred that the district refused to address. Large portions of Dallas are in Richardson ISD with horrible employment policies and little protection for LGBT students but the MEI credited Dallas for DISD.
Texas scores aren’t that bad when compared to other parts of the country. Brookhaven, N.Y. that includes Fire Island only received a 59. Anaheim, home of Disneyland, only received an 85. Liberal Berkeley scored four points lower than Dallas.
— David Taffet