UPDATE: The NFL told Houston TV station KPRC it has no plans to move the Super Bowl on account of the vote on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
Although the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance lost at the ballot box Tuesday, the fight for equal rights in the city is far from over, according to supporters of the ordinance and Mayor Annise Parker, who is in her last days as Houston's first openly gay leader (due to term limits).
"I guarantee that justice in Houston will prevail,” Parker said Tuesday night, CBS News reports. “This ordinance, you have not seen the last of. We're united. We will prevail."
Those who did win the battle, if not the war, were glib. Antigay Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick was over the moon when he addressed the cheering opponents of HERO Tuesday night and specifically attacked Parker, according to Towleroad:
“I’m disappointed that the mayor could not be gracious tonight. I’m disappointed that in her waning hours of being in office she still divisive. But mayor, you are wrong. And the people of Texas spoke up in Houston and made it very clear that this is not the kind of city that they want to live in. And I hope those in public office in other party as we move forward understand that when it comes to common sense and common decency and what is right in our church and our families that we will not accept anyone telling us that wrong is right.”
Patrick was one of the leaders in the charge against HERO, posting an anti-trans video on Facebook and spreading lies about transgender women and what HERO would do: "It's about letting men in women's locker rooms and bathrooms,” he said.
“I’m so proud of the voters of this city who turned out in record numbers, two out of three,” Patrick said Tuesday night, “telling those who supported this, including Hillary Clinton, that you’re out of touch with America, you’re out of touch with you’re own party, you’re out of touch with common sense, you’re out of touch with common decency, and I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right.”
Reaction from pro-LGBT advocacy groups was swift.
“This loss is a wake-up call that despite remarkable progress for LGBT equality, we must never become complacent in the face of injustice,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO and president of GLAAD. “The vote in Houston shows that LGBT Americans still have a long way to go to secure basic protections and enjoy the same acceptance that others take for granted. The ugly fearmongering that led to this result does not represent the values of most Americans who believe firmly in fairness.”
A joint statement was issued by the coalition partners that make up Houston Unites, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas, NAACP Houston Branch, Texas Freedom Network, Freedom for All Americans, and the Human Rights Campaign:
“We are disappointed with today’s outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue. No one should have to live with the specter of discrimination hanging over them. Everyone should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families. Although Houston won't yet join the 200 other cities that have similar nondiscrimination measures, the fight continues. We will continue telling the stories of Houstonians whose lives would be better off because of HERO — including people of color, people of faith, veterans who have served our country, women, and gay and transgender people. We’ve learned some important lessons, as well. We have to continue sharing our stories so that more Houstonians know what HERO is really about and aren't susceptible to the ugliest of smear campaigns run by the opposition. And we must remember that all of us are stronger when we stand together, speaking up with one voice for protections like those in HERO, rather than allowing those who oppose fairness and equality to divide us.”
HRC president Chad Griffin went one step further, writing to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, requesting an emergency meeting in the wake of HERO’s defeat. The two most important words in that letter: Super Bowl.
“With Houston slated to host Super Bowl LI in 2017, we are writing to request an emergency meeting about the urgent need for a nondiscrimination ordinance in this city that will ensure the thousands of employees, contractors and attendees at this event will be fully protected under the law. The Super Bowl will bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to Houston, and attract attention from across the nation and around the world. Commissioner Goodell, you have emphasized the NFL's commitment to diversity and inclusion, respect and fairness. Out of that commitment we hope you will work with us to find a path forward in Houston. Finding a path to nondiscrimination protections that ensure all Houstonians are treated equally and fairly remains our crucial and urgent mission. ... If the Super Bowl is to remain in Houston, these protections need to be in place to ensure the safety and well-being of all those participating.”
There’s already a petition to move the event unless Houston reinstates HERO, USA Today reports. Ben Douthett started the petition on Change.org, and it reads in part, “By pulling the game from Houston, the NFL can demonstrate its commitment to equality, freedom and justice in a truly meaningful way.
“It should be noted that this move would by no means be without precedent. In 1991, the NFL revoked the 1991 Super Bowl from Tempe, Arizona after that state's voters rejected a proposal recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”
At press time, the petition had more than 1,100 signatures.
In the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, The Washington Post reported Houston business leaders warned that as a consequence of HERO’s defeat, the city should expect conventions and other big businesses to boycott, things that would affect the city in a concrete way. Mayor Parker hinted at the threat of that kind of economic impact Tuesday night.
"I fear that this will have stained Houston's reputation as a tolerant, welcoming, global city," said Parker Tuesday night. "I absolutely fear that there will be a direct economic backlash as a result of this ordinance going into defeat and that's sad for Houston."
Houston attorney and HERO supporter John LaRue told ABC News he’s heard the "rumblings of boycotts" and that although supporters were "in shell shock," they are preparing for more concrete next steps.
“We're planning to create a voluntary system and group made of people who, while not obligated by City Hall, will still choose to enforce HERO's protections in their businesses."
Watch Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s speech to opponents of HERO, below.