Sunny HRC City-Rankings Leave Trans People In The Cold

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has released the results of its 2015 Municipal Equality Index (MEI), a pretty exhaustive ranking of LGBT rights in 408 cities over all 50 states. However, the MEI has a serious flaw — it awards cities full credit for non-discrimination ordinances, even when those ordinances fail to cover trans people. For anyone who knows the HRC though, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

HRC equals sign logo
All cities are not created equal. Neither are all LGBT ordinances.

The MEI’s rankings include 41 categories, ranging from hate crimes reporting to trans-inclusive health insurance for city employees.  The index gave 47 cities in 24 states perfect scores, and — according to the HRC — 32 million people live in cities with fully-inclusive local protections better than those guaranteed on the state level.

Unfortunately, the numbers don’t tell the whole story. In cities like Fort Worth and Plano, Texas, for example, the city got a high score even though its equal rights ordinances don’t include trans protections.

Plano’s score last year was a low 22; this year it went up to 74, well above the national average of 56, though its non-discrimination ordinances don’t guarantee trans people access to bathrooms and locker rooms and religious, political, non-profit, and educational organizations can all claim an exemption from the burden of treating transgender people like actual humans. Fort Worth scored a 99, losing points for a lack of anti-bullying measures or trans-inclusive health care, but picking up bonus points for providing city services to people with HIV/AIDS.

Cathryn Oakley, MEI author and HRC senior legislative counsel, told the Texas Observer that they will review the criteria before making next year’s index:

“To date, MEI criteria has looked at whether cities have ordinances that ‘include protections in places of public accommodation on the basis of gender identity.’ But frankly that language is too broad to capture important nuances that reflect the work HRC has done on the the political front and demands as best practice.”

Nell Gaither, president of Dallas Trans Pride, believes that the HRC gives higher scores to wealthier communities. “HRC has tended to give wealthier municipalities like Plano higher scores. Why? Gets them more donations. … Who cares about marginalized and low-income persons left out; they don’t donate.”

Dallas and Austin got perfect scores, but the average score for cities in Texas was a lowly 32.

According to the HRC, “progress on transgender equality has been particularly noteworthy in cities across America this year, continuing a positive trend that the MEI has tracked each year. To earn perfect scores, cities must embrace comprehensive transgender-inclusive laws and policies that often go beyond explicit protections offered by their state or the federal government.”

The index was released in conjunction with a brief on actions that cities should take to address anti-transgender violence. It makes sense for the HRC to continue struggling with trans-inclusive policies; perhaps it’s to be expected from an organization with serious diversity issues.

(featured image: Plano, Texas via davidwilson1949)