Houston Voters Reject Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

November 4th 2015

On Tuesday, voters in Houston, Texas decided to reject an anti-discrimination ordinance that protected 15 classes of people from bias in a number of different areas including employment, housing, public business services, and city contracting, the Houston Chronicle reported.

The initiative, Issue 1 (also known as Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO) protected against discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, race, color, ethnicity and national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, and family, marital, or military status, according to the Chronicle.

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Cheering erupted in a room of Houston, Texas residents Tuesday night, as they held banners reading, "No Men in Women's Bathrooms"—the running campaign slogan—and watched the election results roll in. The rhetoric woven into the campaign to repeal the ordinance, evidenced by the slogan, drummed up fear of sexual predation of women and girls.

"It's about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters," Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said at an elections party following the vote. "I'm glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right."

This fear-mongering over bathrooms—which was used by the campaign against HERO—is based on myth. Multiple studies point to no rise in sexual assault in gender neutral bathrooms, while other research found a majority of transgender people, 70 percent, have been harassed over the use of public bathrooms, ATTN: reported in September.

Supporters of HERO said in a statement they were "disappointed with today's outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue."

"This is still an issue that hasn't really come up at the ballot box as much," Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans a pro-LGBT organization, told the Huffington Post. "So the work is really just beginning in terms of how to talk about this, how to message around it in the face of the attacks we are now seeing from our opponents. This has been a huge learning experience that we're going to get a lot out of."

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The original HERO ordinance had been the result of a hard fought legal battle that lasted over a year since its narrow passage by the city council in May of last year, and was on the ballot after the state supreme court offered that option or to repeal it. The Times notes that the ordinance had support from corporations like Apple, and major political figures like President Obama.

Though the LGBT community had a major win with the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality, the community still faces job and housing discrimination. Forbes reports that "40 percent of America’s LGBT population lives in states prohibiting such housing discrimination."

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