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.