Houston decided it had a problem: Its LGBT nondiscrimination law
As most political watchers are aware by now, Houston voters went to the polls Tuesday and defeated something now known as the “bathroom bill” by a considerable margin.
On a ballot where they considered several critical political contests — the race for a new mayor, as well as K-12 school board and and community college trustee seats — Houston voters decided the fate of a civil rights measure passed by the city council last year but rejected by the state’s Supreme Court.
It was the so-called “bathroom bill” that was expected to drive voter turnout.
Why? The law aimed to extend civil rights protections in housing, employment and public facilities (in all senses of the term) to all Houstonians, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, marital or military status, as well as sexuality and gender identity.
That’s a long list, we know. But it’s that final item that appears to have defeated the measure — or at least given opponents what they believe to be a matter worthy of public battle, along with language carefully crafted to assure defeat. In that completely modern way in which access to lots of information only seems to accelerate up the speed at which misinformation travels — and unproven, unprovable and straight-up conspiracy theories can be hard to distinguish from verified fact — Houston’s Human Rights Ordinance (HERO for short) went down. Its opponents managed to pull public discussion about the law out of the realm of civil rights and into a murky world of religious liberty and possible threats posed by sexual predators.
Just less than 45 minutes after the polls closed Tuesday night, early voting totals showed that 62.5 percent of Houston residents voted to to repeal the law and 37.5 percent to sustain it. It was called for the opponents. And just consider what the primary spokesman for the forces working to defeat the bill had to say, as soon as the early voting results were in:
At opponents’ watch party in the Galleria, campaign spokesman Jared Woodfill and others erupted in cheers as the early voting results were posted.
“It’s going down,” Woodfill said. ” It’s over. Our message worked.”
Truer words have likely not been spoken in politics in quite some time.
A group of pastors gathered the signatures and initiated the court cases that landed the law on the ballot and made it subject to voter approval. When the city’s legal team subpoenaed documents and e-mails from some of the pastors involved, in the team’s efforts to defend the law and stifle a referendum in court, the pastors said the city had crossed the line and infringed on the practice of their faith. The state’s Republican attorney general essentially agreed and directed the city to withdraw its legal request.