On Tuesday the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance went down to defeat at the polls, which means Houston remains the only major city in Texas without a comprehensive civil rights ordinance that protects against discrimination. Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s powerful statement last night is already making the rounds on the Internet.
This morning the Texas Freedom Network sent out the following press release:
The deceitful, fear-based campaign used to defeat the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance at the polls on Tuesday will seriously damage the reputation of the City of Houston and the State of Texas, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller said today.
Miller said that danger is particularly high because of the way Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick waded into the election over the local ordinance.
“It was disturbing to see our state’s two highest elected leaders shamefully peddling lies and scare tactics,” Miller said. “Their political pandering has branded Texas as hostile to basic human rights and inclusiveness. In lending the prestige of their offices to such a shockingly deceitful campaign, Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick aligned themselves with some of this state’s most extreme and intolerant voices. That can only hurt the state’s reputation among anyone or any business that might want to move here.”
The rhetoric used by HERO opponents was nothing short of incendiary. At one campaign event, a major funder of the anti-HERO campaign wielded a sword while demanding that gay and transgender people be driven from Houston. Another leader declared that opponents of the nondiscrimination ordinance were fighting “the presence of evil” in Houston. But the anti-HERO campaign was based largely on a single tactic: scaring voters into thinking the nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people would allow “troubled men” and sexual predators to assault women and girls in public bathrooms.
Gov. Abbott called for the defeat of HERO, even tweeting “no men in women’s bathrooms” on Monday. In addition, Lt. Gov. Patrick helped fund the anti-HERO campaign and even appeared in a television ad featuring the “bathroom” scare.
But law enforcement and other public officials in cities and states with laws similar to HERO say they had not seen problems with sexual predators using the measures to harass or assault people in public restrooms.
Despite the setback in Houston, supporters of equality will continue to fight to protect all Texans from discrimination, Miller said.
“No one should have to live in fear of losing their job, being evicted from their home or being denied public services simply because of who they are or whom they love,” Miller said. “Texas is better than that, but it’s clear that fear remains a powerful, deceitful weapon for opponents of equality.”
The Houston Unites campaign for HERO sent out this statement last night:
The coalition partners that make up Houston Unites, including ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, NAACP Houston Branch, Texas Freedom Network, Freedom for All Americans and the Human Rights Campaign, released the following joint statement after today’s vote.
“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.
“Although Houston won’t yet join the 200 other cities that have similar nondiscrimination measures, the fight continues. We will continue telling the stories of Houstonians whose lives would be better off because of HERO – including people of color, people of faith, veterans who have served our country, women, and gay and transgender people.
“We’ve learned some important lessons, as well. We have to continue sharing our stories so that more Houstonians know what HERO is really about and aren’t susceptible to the ugliest of smear campaigns run by the opposition. And we must remember that all of us are stronger when we stand together, speaking up with one voice for protections like those in HERO, rather than allowing those who oppose fairness and equality to divide us.”