Houston Delays LGBT Rights Vote, Removes Restroom Access Provision

Mayor Annise Parker contends a proposed ordinance will still protect trans residents from discrimination.

BY Trudy Ring

May 16 2014 3:49 PM ET

Annise Parker

The Houston City Council won’t vote on an LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinance until the week after next, but the proposal has already spurred intense debate.

The council decided Wednesday to delay the vote for two weeks, but Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian, spoke forcefully about the ordinance’s significance, saying, “It is right and appropriate” to enact it. She also said, “It is personal. It is not academic. It is my life that is being discussed.”

The proposed ordinance, which would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, and other factors, was amended this week to remove a section that would assure transgender people access to the public restroom that corresponds with their gender identity, the Houston Chronicle reports. “Church and Republican political leaders have used the clause to claim the ordinance ‘provides an opportunity for sexual predators to have access to our families,’” the Chronicle notes. Such claims — although soundly debunked — are often used by those opposed to equal access for transgender individuals. 

Those denied access to the proper restroom would still be able to file a discrimination complaint with the city’s Office of Inspector General, according to the Chronicle. “The base ordinance is still the same,” Parker said in announcing the change. “It says you can’t discriminate.” Later she tweeted, “To my trans sisters/brothers: you’re still fully protected in Equal Rights Ordinance. We’re simply removing language that singled you out.”

Houston remains the largest U.S. city without an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance, and in some areas it has yet to prohibit discrimination based on such factors as race, religion, or disability. The pending ordinance, unveiled by Parker last month, covers private employment, housing, and public accommodations. In 2010 she issued an executive order banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in city employment.

Watch a video of Parker’s remarks to the council below.

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