Houston City Council Takes a Stand for Equality: Passes Equal Rights Ordinance by 11-6 Vote


The Houston City Council, by a vote of 11-6, has just passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which bars discrimination based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and military status, among other characteristics, in employment, housing and public accommodations. Houston now joins Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso in adopting such broad civil rights protections for all.

Passage of the HERO came despite a divisive and deceitful campaign by religious-right groups and activists to stop it. That campaign promoted fear, myths, distortions and even personal attacks against Mayor Annise Parker. Opponents denounced LGBT people as evil and shamefully claimed the ordinance would allow sexual predators into women’s restrooms. They also argued that the ordinance threatens their religious freedom — the freedom, that is, to discriminate against people they don’t like. At one point a Houston pastor who opposed the HERO even insisted that religious freedom allows a businessperson or anyone else to discriminate against anyone, including Jews as well as LGBT people.

In the end, however, a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, including Equality Texas, Texans Together, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Freedom Network, working behind the courageous leadership of Mayor Parker, Council Member Ellen Cohen and religious leaders across Houston, made sure that equality won and demonstrated to the rest of the country that Houston doesn’t discriminate.

Opponents are threatening to overturn the ordinance in a public referendum this fall. But TFN and our coalition partners will work just as hard to defeat that referendum as we did to win passage of the HERO.

Now, however, is the time to celebrate a big victory for equality in Texas.

8 thoughts on “Houston City Council Takes a Stand for Equality: Passes Equal Rights Ordinance by 11-6 Vote

  1. How can I find who voted what? My neighbor is a city councilman, I want to know if I should shake his hand or give him dirty looks 😉

    1. “Council members Brenda Stardig, Dwight Boykins, Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, Michael Kubosh and Jack Christie voted no, saying either that they must represent their constituents or that they had been left out of the drafting process.”
      [Source: Houston Chronicle]

  2. EPIC FAIL. The vote was not even close. The Religious Right needs to find a new cause where it again draws a line in the sand (in the wrong place as usual) and makes a fool out of itself.

    I think they should take up some of the issues Jesus was concerned about. We hear a whole lot about the Old Testament law and the covenant between God and the children of Israel—as if they think Americans are all Old Testament Jews.

    My recommendation would be to start by sending the Oligarchs in the Republican Party a copy of the parable Jesus told about Lazarus and the Rich Man:

    “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’

    “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’

    “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

    “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

    “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

    “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'”

    Someone did rise from the dead, and just as Jesus predicted, the Religious Right is not listening.

  3. Why was this not put before the general public for a vote , to get a true feeling on how we, the public think about this matter ? I too , would like to know how our councilmen voted, so I would know how to vote at election time.

    1. Donald, do you want your rights put up for a vote by the public? I thought not. It’s bad enough that the city council must take action to ensure that individual rights are respected. Other people’s rights are none of your business. It doesn’t matter how you feel about equal rights for others. Get a life of your own, and mind your own business.

    2. It was not put to a public vote because, mostly, we operate with a representative government and the Council are your representatives. As Marsisi noted, this was a vote to affirm basic human rights. If you are opposed to the position the Council took, I hope reflection leads you to believe that it is an affirmation of your rights too and was a good thing thing they did.

    3. MR. EDMUND BURKE’S SPEECH TO THE ELECTORS OF BRISTOL, On his being declared by the Sheriff’s, duly elected one of the Representatives in Parliament for that City. On Thursday the third of November, 1774.

      (… several paragraphs omitted …)

      I am sorry I cannot conclude, without saying a word on a topick touched upon by my worthy colleague. I wish that topick had been passed by; at a time when I have so little leisure to discuss it. But since he has thought proper to throw it out, I owe you a clear explanation of my poor sentiments on that subject. He tells you, that “the topick of instructions has occasioned much altercation and uneasiness in this city;” and he expresses himself (if I understand him rightly) in favour of the coercive authority of such instructions.
      Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative, to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him ; their opinion high respect; their business unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs ; and, above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. But, his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you; to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

      My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superiour. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?

      To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience; these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenour of our constitution.

      Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole. You chuse a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far, as any other, from any endeavour to give it effect.