Austin just got a perfect score in an annual review of LGBTQ+ policies — for the 9th year in a row

Austin
Austin ISD raises rainbow flag in honor of Pride Month at its central office June 4, 2021 (Austin ISD Photos)

Austin ISD raises rainbow flag in honor of Pride Month at its central office June 4, 2021 (Austin ISD Photos)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The City of Austin has received a perfect score in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual review of LGBTQ+ policies in cities across the country.

The Municipal Equality Index has been published by HRC each year since 2012. This year, 506 cities across the nation were reviewed.

Austin has scored 100 points for nine years in a row, the only city in Texas to do so.

The review awards points based on five categories:

  • Does the city have non-discrimination laws in employment, housing and public accommodations?
  • Are LGBTQ+ city employees given the same benefits and protections as other employees, and does the city take steps to ensure an inclusive workplace?
  • Does the city ensure LGBTQ+ residents are included in city services and programs?
  • Does the city’s police department engage with LGBTQ+ residents in a thoughtful and respectful way, and does the department report hate crimes to the FBI?
  • Does city leadership work to fully include the LGBTQ+ community and advocate for full equality?

In the 2021 report, Austin is one of five Texas cities to score 100. Arlington, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio also received a perfect score. Of the 25 cities reviewed in the Lone Star State, Killeen and McAllen scored the lowest, with 17 points.

“We are proud Austin has been recognized again as one of the most inclusive cities in the country for LGBTQ+ communities,” said Austin’s Civil Rights Officer Carol Johnson in a statement Friday. “The work continues to ensure we address disparities and improve the quality of life of all our LGBTQIA+ residents.”

Austin Mayor Steve Adler tweeted Friday, saying he was “proud” of the city’s score.

City leaders celebrated the installations of rainbow-colored crosswalks Monday in downtown Austin for National Coming Out Day. (KXAN photo)
City leaders celebrated the installations of rainbow-colored crosswalks Monday in downtown Austin for National Coming Out Day. (KXAN photo)

Last month, Austin city leaders celebrated the installation of rainbow-colored crosswalks downtown on National Coming Out Day.

The crosswalks, at Fourth and Colorado Streets, resemble the Progressive Pride flag, which includes black and brown stripes to represent people of color, as well as the baby blue, pink and white found on the transgender flag.

Despite the perfect score in the Municipal Equality Index report, a survey of Austin’s LGBTQ+ population found more could be done to support them. The survey, by the LGBTQ+ Quality of Life Advisory Commission, found respondents wanted the city to create more LGBTQ+ community spaces. Many of those who responded to the survey said they felt accepted and safe with chosen family and friends at work but not in public places like restaurants.

The City of Round Rock was the only other local city included in the annual report. The city scored 22 points out of a possible 100. A spokesperson for Round Rock said the city received an email from the HRC in March about their score after the city didn’t complete the organization’s survey. The city chose not to participate, “like virtually all surveys the City receives.”

“The City of Round Rock works diligently to provide outstanding services to all its citizens. It’s one of our organizational values,” said spokesperson Will Hampton. “We’re a diverse organization that serves a diverse community, and our citizen survey results are among the highest in the nation.”

Voters in the City of Pflugerville approved a ballot proposition earlier this month that bans discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Another proposition to change the city’s charter language to gender-neutral wording was also approved. The City of Pflugerville was not reviewed as part of the HRC’s annual report.

Nationwide, 110 cities got a score of 100. In Texas, the 25 cities that were reviewed averaged 53 points, below the national average of 67.

“LGBTQ Texans are our coworkers, neighbors, fellow parishioners, friends, and family. They work hard to take care of their families, pay their taxes and contribute to their communities. So when they apply for a job, look for a safe place to live or walk into a business open to the public, they deserve to be treated just like everyone else,” said Equality Texas CEO Ricardo Martinez. “We look forward to the day where no LGBTQ+ Texan has to worry about being fired from a job, evicted from an apartment or turned away at the corner store because of who they are or whom you love.”

The national average of 67 points is up from 64 last year. The average in 2012 — the first year the report was published — was 59.

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