Fresh off a vote last week in Houston to repeal a sweeping nondiscrimination ordinance, religious-righters and cynical politicians have turned their guns on a similar 13-year-old ordinance in Dallas. And once again they’ve decided that the truth won’t be an obstacle.
Back in 2002, the Dallas City Council added to the City Code an ordinance barring discrimination based on, among other characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity. This week the City Council voted unanimously to make essentially a technical change to the ordinance, moving gender identity into its own category rather than lumping it in with sexual orientation. The change added no new protections or enforcement provisions to the ordinance.
Almost immediately, however, the right-wing group Texas Values (an affiliate of Colorado-based Focus on the Family) shrieked that the City Council had approved a “bathroom bill.” The group’s gay-obsessed president, Jonathan Saenz, repeated the same misleading propaganda about sexual predators in women’s bathrooms that was used to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Moreover, he claimed that the council took the vote in a “closed door meeting” and “without public input.”
None of that is true. First, the council did not pass a new nondiscrimination ordinance or anything that substantively changes the existing ordinance. Moreover, there have been no cases in which men have used that ordinance — in its 13-year history — to enter public restrooms to harass or assault women. None of the scores of other cities and states that have passed similar measures have reported such problems either. In fact, extremists like Saenz have been unable to point to even a single example of someone misusing a nondiscrimination law to harm a woman or anyone else in a public bathroom.
In addition, the Dallas City Council did not act in secret. The vote came in an open meeting after a year of public discussion. In fact, the process began after 77 percent of Dallas voters in November 2014 approved an amendment to the City Charter that included protections for city employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So Dallas voters have clearly shown that they support these nondiscrimination protections.
Even so, some state politicians have been repeating the lies promoted by Texas Values. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who helped fund the effort to repeal the Houston ordinance, falsely claims that the Dallas City Council acted hastily and without public input. State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, has made the same false accusation. And they’re both echoing the same ugly and misleading scare tactics about men in women’s bathrooms. (Huffines has posted on his website a petition calling for repeal of the nondiscrimination protections.)
Jared Woodfill, the odious former chair of the Harris County Republican Party who led efforts to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, is also getting in the game. Woodfill is calling on the Texas GOP to move its 2016 state convention from Dallas to Houston. No doubt, Woodfill hopes the issue will help his campaign to be elected chair of the state party.
But supporters of the Dallas nondiscrimination ordinance are pushing back hard against the lies. On Thursday, Jonathan Saenz repeated those lies on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network. But Dallas City Councilmember Philip Kingston, also appearing on the show, didn’t let Saenz get away with it:
“That’s just flat false. That’s a lie. You’re just making stuff up at this point. Also false. That’s like 100 percent made-up. That’s crazy.”
Kingston is right. It has become entirely clear that supporters of discrimination will say anything — regardless of the truth — in their efforts to promote fear and hate toward LGBT Texans.