For the next two weeks, the Houston City council is tabling its vote on HERO, the expanded city wide non-discrimination ordinance that would protect city contracting, housing, public accommodations and private employees on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation.
As the media continues its coverage of the LGBT protection measure, GLAAD has reached out to Houston-based outlets, providing resources to debunk the misinformation being spread by anti-LGBT activists about HERO. In particular, they are perpetuating harmful and baseless claims about the transgender community. Transadvocate shared this photo on its Facebook page of talking points against the expansion of HERO, including, "a potential danger is that men can easily dress with women's clothing and be granted easy access to a public bathroom," and "a potential danger is that if men are allowed easy access to public bathrooms…then this could also promote sexual intercourse in a public setting" (original emphasis included).
GLAAD and Think Progress have previously published facts that counter commonly invoked myths surrounding HERO, and Media Matters has done so regarding ENDA. For your informed convenience, here's a breakdown:
- Workers who are trans, bisexual, lesbian, and gay lack comprehensive workplace protections in most states, including Texas. This means that someone can be fired on the sole basis of one's sexual orientation or gender identity. Non-discrimination ordinances provide basic protections in the workplace, not special privileges to certain employees.
- HERO and ENDA have exemptions for faith-based organizations and therefore they do not require religious groups to provide these protections. Regardless, many people of all faiths support protecting LGBT workers from being unjustly treated or fired. While oppositional pundits, such as self-proclaimed Christian Mike Huckabee, claim employment protections violate his religious freedom, we can be clear that there is nothing in Christianity that asks its followers to fire a person from one's job for being LGBT.
- Employment protections elsewhere have not lead to increased sexual assaults or incidents of voyeurism. Non-discrimination ordinances to not make bathrooms dangerous. Simply put, being in a bathroom as an LGBT person is not an act of terror or assault. I feel silly even having to type these sentences out, but this is among the primary oppositional points made against such measures. In fact, some are calling HERO the "Sexual Predator Protection Act."
- Employment protection is not only an "LGBT issue." HERO is supported by the NAACP, the Urban League, LULAC, Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Equality Texas, TENT and BTMI/BTWI's Houston chapters, business groups, and many city residents (including 85% of Houston's African American community) as well.
Consumers and creators alike of the media, please feel free to use GLAAD as an ongoing resource as the movement for employee protections—locally and nationally—continue. We are not close enough to workplace equality and, when such myths fill the space where dialogues should be flowing, the goal is pushed even farther out of reach.