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Houston votes down equal rights amendment

By Candace Kellner
Staff Writer

An anti-discrimination ordinance was repealed by voters, on Tuesday, Nov. 3, after a yearlong battle between Houston’s lesbian mayor and social conservatives, reported the New York Times.

In May, Houston’s City Council passed the ordinance, but it was in limbo after opponents succeeded in pushing the matter to a referendum. According to the New York Times, the measure ultimately failed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.

The ordinance prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity, according to the New York Times.

Opponents of the ordinance argued that the measure would allow, what they consider, men claiming to be women to enter women’s bathrooms and inflict harm on the females present. The “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” message was advertised on television and radio, and turned the debate into one about protecting women and girls from sexual predators.

Protests of the measure dates back to October. AP Photo.
Protests of the measure dates back to October. (AP Photo)

“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters,” said Republican Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who held a rally at an election night party,  the New York Times reported. “I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political correctness attack on what we know in our heart, and our gut, as Americans is not right.”

Supporters of the ordinance said the measure was similar to those approved in 200 other cities. These supporters included Houston Mayor Annise Parker, various local and national gay rights and civil rights groups and the prominent actress Sally Field.

They accused opponents of using fear mongering against gay people and talking of far-fetched bathroom attacks in order to generate support for a repeal, reported the New York Times. According to the New York Times,  Parker and Field claims the ordinance says nothing specifically about whether men can use women’s restrooms.

The proponents’ defeat at the polls was a blow to Parker, a Democrat. Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor when she won office in December 2009, according to the New York Times. Parker helped the measure gain endorsements from President Barack Obama and large corporations like Apple.

Opponents of the measure said the ordinance had nothing to do with discrimination, but rather the mayor’s forced gay agenda on the city. According to the New York Times, these opponents denied that they had any bias against gay people and claimed that the ordinance was so vague that it would subject anyone who tried keeping men from using a women’s bathroom to a city investigation and fine.

“The mayor has never been able to produce a shred of evidence that’s credible of any need for this ordinance, other than everybody else is doing it,” said Dave Welch, the executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, the New York Times reported.

Parker and her supporters said Houston would lose tourism and convention business. Opponents of the measure downplayed any economic impact, describing the supporters’ claims as a fear tactic.


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