On November 3, 2015, 66 percent of the voters in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the United States, defeated HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. The socially conservative voters who showed up to say "no" to equal rights are calling this win a hit out of the park, but after further review, we can anticipate it to be a long and disappointing foul.
HERO would have and should have prohibited discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation on the basis of race, age, gender, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability or military status.
Houston Unites (pro-HERO) expressed deep disappointment in the scare tactics anti-LGBT (and particularly anti-trans) groups used to achieve the socially conservative majority. The defeat of the ordinance sends a clear message that discrimination is ok in Houston. And, where discrimination is so publicly sanctioned for any, it will be committed against many. Sadly, the Lt. Governor of Texas personally funded $70,000 of the anti-gay campaign sending a message to young Texans that officials can use their power and privilege in elected offices to bring harm to those they are called to protect.
Houston Unites (pro-HERO), including ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, NAACP Houston Branch, Texas Freedom Network, Freedom for All Americans and the Human Rights Campaign, said:
We will continue telling the stories of Houstonians whose lives would be better off because of HERO…We’ve learned some important lessons, as well…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.
Mayor Annise Parker said that the anti-HERO politicians were clear that they would pass HERO if trans identified persons were not included. The Mayor and others determined that they would not concede this provision now or in the future because all human beings deserve fairness in employment, education and housing.
ACPA—College Student Educators International is currently contracted to hold its Annual Convention in Houston in 2018. We have officially notified our contractor to determine what legal remedies we can recommend to the ACPA Governing Board to attempt release from our obligation if HERO or its equivalent ordinance are not achieved in Houston before 2018. The bigotry and misinformation that was spread about people who are transgender, in particular, was egregious. There are 200 other major cities in America who extend equal rights protections to all of their residents and visitors.
Houston voters have expressed their willingness to discriminate against trans identified persons and others as stated. We have started a Move On petition that calls upon the Houston City Council to reverse its anti-human rights position. This petition asserts the core values of ACPA for diversity, equity and inclusion, fairness in education, employment and housing. We hope you will sign this petition. We will deliver the final petition to the Houston City Council this month.
Next, we will continue our work in Texas, partner with our colleagues on our member campuses to give voice to those who are underrepresented and insist that human dignity is the organizing principle around which public officials must convene.
Thank you for your support.