Even before the Houston City Council passed the Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in May of last year, opponents claimed — without a shred of evidence — that the anti-discrimination measure would allow sexual predators into public restrooms to assault women and children. That cynical and deeply disingenuous claim is the central argument HERO opponents are making in their campaign to repeal the ordinance in the November 3 election. In case you missed it, the Houston Chronicle last week published a sharp editorial that takes what the newspaper calls the “bathroom bogeyman” argument head-on.
None of the states and municipalities that have passed similar anti-discrimination measures, including Minnesota more than 20 years ago, have reported any evidence that sexual predators are using the laws to invade restrooms and harm people, the Chronicle points out:
The fact is, [HERO opponents] are not concerned that men dressing up as women are just waiting for HERO to pass … so they can don skirts, blouses and high heels and assault women and girls in public bathrooms. Their aim is to defeat an ordinance that partially benefits gay and transgendered Houstonians, people whose lives they can’t accept. If they can stir up the general public with scare tactics that border on the absurd, then so be it; they will have saved Houstonians from surrendering to the creeping acceptance of what they believe to be a deviant lifestyle. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and anyone persuaded by their cynical ploy should be too.
Exactly right. The anti-HERO campaign’s scare tactics are designed simply to protect the ability to discriminate against and harm people simply because of who they are or whom they love. Frankly, the animus HERO opponents demonstrate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people itself argues for why the Houston City Council was right to pass the anti-discrimination ordinance.
Houston was the last major city in Texas to pass a comprehensive ordinance barring discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including race, sex, age, religion, disability, and family, marital and military status, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity. HERO’s passage sent a message that Houstonians value the diversity that has helped make their city one of the world’s most welcoming and dynamic.
Houstonians may come from different backgrounds or have different beliefs, but what’s most important is what they have in common — taking pride in their work, respecting their coworkers and customers, and getting the job done. HERO guarantees that everyone has the opportunity to earn a living, take care of their families, have housing, and be served by businesses and government, without fear of discrimination.
Opponents don’t like that, and they’re willing to lie to voters to kill HERO. We’re confident most Houstonians will be reject such a cynical strategy and vote “YES” in support of HERO on November 3.
Join Houston Unites, the campaign to support HERO.