The fourth largest city in the country is currently deliberating a citywide ordinance that would provide protections for the cities LGBT citizens. Houston, Texas could soon pass HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which would cover employment, city contracting, housing, public accommodations and private employment at businesses with at least 50 employees on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Houston Press notes that there are likely to be changes and amendments before final passage of HERO, but the outlet joins LULAC, the NAACP, the Urban League, Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston Gay and Lesbian Political Caucus, Equality Texas, TENT and BTMI/BTWI's Houston chapters and other business groups in calling for the passage of HERO.
Any lack of support doesn't seem to be stifling any passage of the vote, although any final action by the City Council was pushed back to finalize amendments to the proposal.
With backing from the Greater Houston Partnership, as well as other advocated and religious leaders, now seems the time for HERO to become official and allow Houston to join the ranks of other forward thinking cities in protecting its public.
Monica Roberts of the TransGriot, a 2014 GLAAD Media Award nominated blog, has been present at the HERO hearings, testifying and writing about the hearings on TransGriot.
When it was revealed it covered city and private employment. There was a HERO town hall in the gayborhood held surprisingly by one of the councilmembers penciled in initially as a leaning NO vote in Michael Kubosh. It covered sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations, albeit clunkily and the PA language in Section 17-51 (b) sucked as far as the trans community was concerned.
The 50 employee threshold was also too high. Those concerns are being addressed in amendments offered by Councilmembers Gonzales, Gallegos and Davis.
The ordinance has also brought out prominent anti-LGBT activists, which was expected. But people didn't expect a popular R&B station, Majic 102.1 to repost an anti-LGBT story with the inflammatory title, "Mayor Parker Promotes Ordinance To Allow Men In Women's Restrooms (Your Thoughts)".
Roberts has pointed out the false and misleading claims from the article, namely that it threatens the safety of women, and has encouraged supports to explain that the safety and protection of all people is exactly why such an ordinance is needed. Roberts writes:
It's problematic that Majic 102 would link to an anti-HERO website that plays into the 'fear and smear' anti-trans hatred continually propagated by the opponents of this much needed ordinance in this entire HERO debate. I guess you forgot some of the Houston area African-American listeners KMJQ-FM targets are also members of the LGBT community who have been negatively affected by anti-TBLG discrimination in the Houston area that the HERO is designed to address.
We have also been affected by the faux faith-based hate speech coming from the opponents who are depressingly African-American ministers, and you added to that problem.
I guess it has escaped your attention Majic 102 that African-Americans are part of the team fighting hard for passage of this much needed human rights law. The HERO has the support of the NAACP, the Urban League, 85% of the Houston African American community in a recent poll and various African-American local, state and federal legislators.
Media Matters also noted that big name anti-LGBT activists like Mike Huckabee are also launching a campaign to shout down HERO. Huckabee used the same anti-transgender claims that have been thoroughly debunked time and time again.
Huckabee's attack on the ordinance echoes other conservative claims against anti-discrimination measures, including a San Antonio ordinance passed last fall. In both cases, opponents have ignored the measures' explicit religious exemptions to argue that the proposals would imperil religious liberty and overlooked data indicating that anti-LGBT discrimination is bad for businesses and local economies.
Just last month, Huckabee made headlines when he declared that he's "not a hater" and "not homophobic," simply a believer in the Bible. As he wages a campaign of malicious smears to combat even proposals with clear religious exemptions, such claims appear increasingly untenable.
It's possible that HERO may pass by Wednesday, but only with the continued vocal support of LGBT people and their allies. Take action by visiting TransGriot to find out who to contact, how to testify at hearings, and learn more about the ordinance. Or tune in to watch the City Council hearings on Wednesday here.