Upholding the Right to Be Stupid: Houston’s Vote Against HERO

By Paul L. Young

Like many Americans in presidential election season, a majority of Houstonians

last week asserted their constitutional right to be knuckle-dragging troglodytes by

rejecting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The measure, first passed last

May, would have made it illegal to discriminate against 15 protected classes, including

gay and transgender people, people with disabilities and pregnant women.

Called “the bathroom ordinance” by conservative reductionists, the measure was

passed by the City Council in May 2014. Republicans countered with a court challenge

that opened the ordinance to a referendum. Last Tuesday Houston voters defeated the

statute, 61 percent to 39 percent.

Openly lesbian Mayor Annise D. Parker said, “This was a campaign of fear-

mongering and deliberate lies designed to demonize a little-understood minority.”

Conservative ads against the statute painted lurid scenarios of cross-dressing sexual

predators trolling for little girls in public restrooms.

On Oct. 29 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, “No one should face

discrimination for who they are or who they love-I support efforts for equality in Houston

& beyond. #HERO #YesOnProp1 –H.” Four days later, Republican Gov. Greg Abbot,

himself a paraplegic, tweeted, “HOUSTON: Vote Texas values, not @HillaryClinton

values. Vote NO on City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women’s bathrooms.”

The timing of Houston’s vote was unfortunate. Conservatives used the ballot to

peddle misinformation to talk-radioheads and exploit an opportunity to advance

conservative candidates. They were preaching to the converted, but also distancing the

Republican Party even further from moderate, mainstream Americans. Then again, as in

last year’s midterm elections, Democrats simply didn’t get their people to the polls.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2001, 57 percent of Americans opposed

gay marriage, versus 35 percent who supported it. This year those numbers reversed,

with 55 percent of Americans supporting gay marriage against 39 percent who oppose it.

Over the past 14 years, Americans clearly have come to understand that their sons and

daughters, fathers and mothers, friends and neighbors include lesbian, gay, bisexual, and

transgender people, many of whom require legal relief from discrimination in housing

and the workplace.

Endorsing discrimination is also simply bad business, discouraging companies

from setting up shop in Houston. The Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Super

Bowl Committee and Fortune 500 firms doing business in Texas “have gone on record

this year supporting equality for all Texans, including those who are gay and

transgender,” said Houston Unites on its website supporting the ordinance. It’s way past

time for the rest of Houston to follow their example.

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