Houston Fails To Ban Discrimination

by Melissah Yang

On Tuesday, voters in Houston rejected a measure that would ban discriminatory practices based on sex, race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and a large number of other classes. The Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, nicknamed HERO, drew large national attention, particularly for the protections it afforded to the LGBT community. Conservative activists, however, spun the ballot measure as a "bathroom ordinance," claiming that its passage would have allowed men into women's bathrooms. Prop 1 failed to pass 62-38 percent, according to KHOU.

The equal rights ordinance — which applied to businesses, private employers, housing, and city employment — was passed by the Houston City Council last year, but loud opposition by anti-gay activists pushed the Texas Supreme Court to suspend the ordinance and take it to the ballot box. One of its staunchest supporters, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, lamented the proposition's failure in a press conference. "No one's rights should be subject to a popular vote," she said. "This was a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies." A coalition of supporters, called Houston Unites, released the following statement:

We are disappointed with today's outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue. No one should have to live with the specter of discrimination hanging over them. Everyone should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families.

Those opposed to the measure viewed it as a violation of business owners' religious freedoms. Under the slogan "No men in women's bathrooms," the opposition relied on evocative signage and images to push back on the millions spent by those in favor of the ordinance.

HERO's failure represents a serious loss to the city, the fourth largest in the nation.