Houston Mayor Annise Parker Vows to Revive Equal Rights Law

Annise Parker

Although Houston voters repealed the city’s LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination law Tuesday, Mayor Annise Parker isn’t giving up — she’s vowing to try to bring the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance back before she leaves office at the end of the year.

“I’m going to sit down with the council members and see how they want to proceed,” Parker said at her weekly press conference Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reports. “We will also, of course, evaluate what the national and international response from the business community is, because that certainly will make a difference.”

The City Council had passed HERO last year, but after opponents challenged it, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the city had to either rescind it or put it to a public vote, which happened Tuesday. The ordinance went down to a resounding defeat, with 62 percent of voters favoring repeal, after opponents ran a campaign alleging that in allowing transgender people to use the public restrooms of their choice, it would enable sexual predators to attack women and children. This has been thoroughly debunked, but it worked with voters.

Parker said she would not seek to water down the ordinance, such as by removing any provision regarding restroom access for transgender Houstonians. The measure would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, race, sex, and several other characteristics.

“I cannot support anything that would remove any of the 15 protected categories,” she said, according to The New Civil Rights Movement. “They were in there because they need the protections that HERO has to offer.

“What is more fundamental than trying to provide access to a public restroom that is appropriate to the gender of an individual, when all they want to do is use the facilities and go on about their business?” she added. “All of this about pedophiles going into women’s restrooms was an out-and-out falsehood, they knew it was a falsehood, and they sold a bill of goods. That’s all I can say. Masterfully played.”

She did say, though, that she’s had conversations with City Council members about perhaps dealing with employment and housing separately from public accommodations.

Parker, who as an out lesbian made Houston the largest city with an openly LGBT mayor, was ineligible to run for the office again due to term limits; she has served three two-year terms. Sylvester Turner, a former state representative, and Bill King, a businessman who was once mayor of Kemah, a Houston suburb, were the top vote-getters in the crowded nonpartisan mayoral race Tuesday. As neither won a majority, they will face each other in a runoff in December.

“I don’t really want to leave a lot of contentious items for the next administration, and I’m going to try not to leave this one as well,” Parker said of HERO. “I think we have a responsibility to try to be thoughtful and figure out a way to bring those protections back.”

You can download the entire press conference here.

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