Houstonians vote to legalize discrimination

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Houstonians vote to legalize discrimination

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The media are focused on Election Day 2016, despite the fact that it is still a full calendar year away. Lost in the shuffle was this year’s election, which had important issues for voters to decide.

One measure on the ballot in Houston was Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which prohibited bias in employment, city contracting, business services and housing to 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. HERO was passed by the City Council in May, but opponents managed to put the matter to a referendum.

The measure was defeated 61 percent to 39 percent. Discrimination is still legal in Houston.

HERO was similar to anti-discrimination ordinances in 200 other cities around the country. There was nothing particularly different about it. Yet opponents were able to turn the protections into a negative by focusing on the false idea that HERO would allow men to use women’s bathrooms and inflict harm on the women within. “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” became the rallying cry for these proponents of discrimination.

It’s sad that even with how far we have come when it comes to equal rights, voters are still able legalize discrimination at the ballot box. Seven years after Proposition 8 legalized discrimination in California, voters have done arguably more damage in Houston.

HERO did not only affect LGBTQ activists; it affected people of all ages and races. It was designed to protect people, and it was instead discarded by voters who turned an issue of equal rights into an attack on sexual predators, a group that in no way benefitted from the ordinance.

“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our grand-daughters,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told HERO opponents on election night, proving that fearmongering is still an effective way to get people to the polls. “I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack … ”

Political correctness: a phrase the far right loves to use to justify hatred. If protecting our vulnerable citizens from discrimination is “wrong,” who would want to be “right?” Apparently 61 percent of Houstonian voters. And that’s a damn shame.