Houston votes to abolish ‘crucial’ LGBT rights law in landmark result
Houston voters have chosen to repeal a city law that protected LGBT people and others from discrimination.
The Texas city has faced a protracted battle over the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – which provided basic protections for LGBT workers.
Pundits predicted the vote would be a close one – however, results showed that a whopping 61% of voters chose to scrap the law, will only 39% opting to keep it, according to the Harris County Clerk’s Office.
The win is seen as a huge victory for Christian opponents, who have consistently scaremongered over provisions for trans people – claiming in campaign ads that the law will let sex offenders into women’s bathrooms.
“We are celebrating tonight!” Jared Woodfill, a leader of the repeal effort, told BuzzFeed.
“We don’t believe that males — regardless of whether they are transgender or cross-dressers or someone who identifies as a woman — should be able to go into a female restroom, shower, or locker room under the protection of law.”
His claims have provoked passionate defences from supporters of the law, with actress Sally Field giving an animated rebuttal.
She told reporters: “It is a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, it’s a lie, and that is all there is to it”.
The vote garnered national attention, as it is viewed as a prime example of the ongoing battle for LGBT equality in the US.
The law was crucial to the LGBT community in the city, as there is currently no federal or state law providing workers with protection from discrimination on the grounds of sexuality – leaving HERO as the last line of defence for LGBT Houstonians.
It also banned discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin and other characteristics, covering jobs, housing, and in places of public accommodations.
This including public restrooms, meaning transgender women could not be banned from using women’s restrooms under the law – a fact opponents exploited to their full advantage.
Although supporters of HERO say they are disappointed by the outcome, they have promised to continue the fight to protect the LGBT community from discrimination in Houston.
“We are disappointed with today’s outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue,” said a joint statement from the groups behind the effort — the ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, NAACP Houston Branch, Texas Freedom Network, Freedom for All Americans, and the Human Rights Campaign.
Matt McTighe, executive director of LGBT advoacay group Freedom for All Americans, said civil rights efforts typically encounter “temporary losses and roadblocks.”
“Our opponents took their scare tactics to new heights.”