Opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, an LGBT rights measure that will be put to a public vote November 3, are continuing to raise the specter of men in women’s restrooms, with local conservative ministers calling the ordinance “dangerous” and “damning.”
“I believe HERO is the most dangerous thing that’s ever been orchestrated in the city of Houston,” said Rev. Floyd Williams Sr. (pictured) of Antioch Baptist Church at a rally held by opponents of the ordinance last week and covered by Houston TV station KTRK. Others at the event called the ordinance “reverse discrimination for people who believe in God” and “deadly, decisive, and damning,” the station reports.
Those who rallied are members of a conservative pastors’ coalition that has put together the No on 1 website, as the ordinance is known as Proposition 1. Its home page states, “Your vote no on Houston Proposition 1 protects women’s and children’s right to privacy in public restrooms, showers and locker rooms.”
The ordinance, passed last year by the Houston City Council but being put to a public vote because of a Texas Supreme Court ruling in a case brought by opponents who sued the city, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity (as well as race, gender, disability, and several other characteristics) in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Opponents are zeroing in on the public accommodations portion, which means transgender people would be able to use the gender-segregated facilities that comport with their identity.
The opponents are using the repeatedly debunked claim that this access will enable sexual predators to attack women and children, having recently run ads to this effect and now making this the focus of the No on 1 website. Such trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances are in force in more than 200 jurisdictions around the country, and there has never been a verified report of anyone using these ordinances as cover to enter gender-segregated spaces and harass women. If anyone did commit such a deed, the ordinance would not prevent them from being prosecuted under existing law, nor does it seek to do so.
The site also claims that all the protections in the ordinance already exist in city, state, and federal law, but they don’t. And at last week’s rally, another minister, Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church, said the coalition had commissioned a poll that found 80 percent of respondents opposed to the law.
Another poll, though, tells a different story, reports Towleroad. The Houston Association of Realtors, which has endorsed the ordinance, said a poll done by American Strategies on its behalf found 52 percent of respondents favoring the law, 37 percent opposed, and the remainder undecided. A coalition of business executives, clergy members, civil rights activists, and other prominent Houstonians has come together as Houston Unites to support the ordinance.
Below, watch the KRTK report, which includes some misleading language, such as a mention of concerns about “transgender men” in women’s restrooms.