Since its inception the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has been a source of hope and contention. Here is the ordinance before I go any further:
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance provides protections in employment (both public and private), housing and public accommodations for the following classes:
- sex - age - disability
- race - familial status - sexual orientation
- color - marital status - genetic information
- ethnicity - military status - gender identity
- national origin - religion - pregnancy
The ONE singular source of contention from day one has been the bathroom issue, in which the opposition state that the ordinance will allow men dressed as women to enter women's restrooms. This is not true, as the ordinance does not change the existing penal code here:
Houston Penal Code: Sec. 28-20. Entering restrooms of opposite sex, it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person's sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises, in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance. (Code 1968, § 28-42.6; Ord. No. 72-904, § 2, 6-2-72)
The issues started after HERO passed and the predominantly White group of pro HERO and token Black folks decided to meet in secret, raise money, and keep the majority of people in support out of the loop. As this took place, the opposition decided to run a campaign of hate and designed a deceptive petition, collected thousands of signatures that were found to be fraudulent and illegible. This happened in the first week of August, in compliance with the city rules, Mayor Annise Parker and then City Attorney Dave Feldman released their findings on the petition count. As I was at the press conference here is what Feldman had to say: "There are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid." With that statement the signatures were declared to be invalidated:
By the end of 2014 and into 2015, both groups continued on a path of disaster as HERO made its way through the courts with victories and the opposition continued to water its anti Trans seeds in the Black and Latino communities. There were no major efforts by those who could really financially support education about HERO in minority communities and debunk the lies about the bathrooms. When given opportunities address the Bathrooms, there was always a pivot , some other justification for why we should have HERO.
The biggest fears that HERO supporters held came true on Friday, July 24th when the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. This cames on the heels of Dave Wilson's lawsuit to change the city charter with his rejected petition that was signed and supported by Mayoral candidate Ben Hall. You can read what I wrote about from that angle HERE and HERE. In its ruling the court ordered the Houston City Council to repeal an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance it passed in 2014 or put a referendum opponents had sought on this November’s ballot. “Once the City Council received the City Secretary’s certification, it had a ministerial duty to act,” the court stated. “If the City Council does not repeal the ordinance by August 24, 2015, then by that date the City Council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election.” Here is Texas Supreme court ruling: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1047360/140667.pdf
On 7/26/15 there was a Protect HERO Meeting to discuss the next steps to protect HERO Once that ruling came down City Council voted Wednesday 8/5/15 not to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which will put the issue before voters on the November ballot. This was a two step process, 1. to vote on an actual repeal or affirmation and 2. the ballot language. Then on 8/12/15 local supporters of #HERO held a press conference at the Hilton Americas to announce a coalition called Houston Unites:
"DISCRIMINATION HAS NO PLACE IN HOUSTON
Houston Unites Against Discrimination is the coalition working to elevate the diversity of voices supporting HERO. No Houstonian should be discriminated against based on race, age, military status, sexual orientation or gender identity. That's a core value Houstonians share, and that's why HERO's passage a year ago was supported by more than 80 current and former elected officials, community and non-profit organizations, major corporations, and more than 70 local faith leaders.In the most diverse city in America, we believe that everyone should be treated fairly, no matter who they are. That's a core value Houstonians share."
This issue has taken on national attention and with national attention comes national media coverage of various forms. One of the biggest issues that I see is that when Black and Brown people are shown at length and often, it is usually the opposition and that feeds into the idea that the Black community is inherently homophobic. The funny thing is that this isn't the first time that I had to address the issue. The people that we see in the Black community on a regular basis & on the grass roots level are Monica Roberts, Dee Dee Watters, Myself, and a few others who have reach that our White counterparts just do not have. I simply feared a Whitewashing of the message to get this much needed ordnance some support from the Black vote. My fears have come true, as over the last 90 days as Houston Unites turned out to be a storefront for HRC - the Human Rights Campaign.
Here is an exchange with some folks from HRC leading up to this post:
What is sad, is that we have been warning about being behind on election day and possibly losing to the haters. In the last week many HRC solicited celebrities have come out in support of HERO including Hillary Clinton. It is sad that this seems like an eleventh hour attempt to save HERO with measures that should have been in place since last year! On 10/28/15, in true HRC fashion, they had an event with Sally Field to raise money and of course, only if you had to be of means to go. Last week (10/29/15) was the first time they had a phone bank that was purported to be geared toward Black folks, it was a tepid attempt to get black folks in to call yes folks instead of the ones they needed to call from jump street. When I got the invite, I was tripped out by the title of the event "Black Community Phone Bank for Prop 1." I literally fell out laughing! What finalized the thought that Houston Unites is an HRC controlled,Whitewashed & elitist nature is when I made a post late sunday night and the comment Marty Rouse (HRC National Field Director) made in the middle of my discussion with Ryan Wilson (who was respectful and I always have and will be fond of him personally).
As I snapped these screenshots, more people were commenting with similar sentiments to mine. The point is that for weeks, we have heard ANTIHERO ADs on almost ALL of the urban stations and television stations. These advertisements came long before Houston Unites/HRC went on the air with Pro HERO ads and now we are fighting to win a battle that our bigoted opponents have been fighting before we even hit the ground running.....TO BE CONTINUED