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Gay Rights Group Gives Austin Policies Top Score

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Austin Chronicle https://flic.kr/p/88nevS
A banner at the city-owned Long Center welcomes people celebrating gay pride in 2010.

Austin received the highest possible score in a new report card measuring city policies toward lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) scored 353 cities nationwide, including 22 in Texas, and gave Austin a score of 100 out of 100.

"It's always felt like a welcoming place, and a lot of people have already said, 'Everybody knows about it,'" says Ceci Gratias of the HRC's Austin Steering Committee. "But if the city doesn't back it up with policies, we can't really tell." 

The city of Austin's score of 100 comes from dozens of policies including a non-discrimination ordinance, domestic partner benefits for same-sex city employees and from having openly gay leaders in city government. 

Austin was the only city in Texas to score 100 on the HRC's municipal equality index. Dallas got 91, San Antonio 72, and Houston 54.  

Several Texas cities earned a score of zero: Lubbock, McAllen, Mesquite and Irving. Those cities have no rules preventing discriminating of gay people in employment, housing or restaurants. They offer no recognition of same-sex partnerships, and they don't voluntarily report hate crime statistics to the FBI. 

"There are things that can be done quickly with little effort [to improve equality]," says Chuck Smith with Equality Texas. "In some jurisdictions, city managers or city staff could make these changes even without needing approval from city councils."

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