After hearing often-emotional testimony from more than 200 people over the course of nine hours, the Houston City Council Wednesday night passed an LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.
The vote was 11-6, reports the Houston Chronicle. Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city, had been the largest one without such an ordinance. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO, had the backing of Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian.
“This is not the most important thing I have done or will do as mayor, but it is the most personally satisfying and most personally meaningful thing I will do as mayor — not just for myself, but for my children and for all the other mothers’ children out there who have an opportunity to have redress if they are discriminated against here in the city of Houston,” Parker told the Chronicle. Parker has a son who is gay and black, and daughters who are biracial.
The measure bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, and family, marital, or military status. It covers private employment, city employment and city contracting, businesses that serve the public, and housing, while exempting religious institutions. The fine for violation goes up to $5,000.
The Houston Area Pastors Council plans to begin gathering signatures to put the ordinance to a repeal vote in November. To get a repeal measure on the ballot, it would need about 17,000 signatures, 10 percent of the turnout in the last mayoral election, within 30 days.
Dave Welch of the pastors council issued a statement saying, “Once we correct this grievous act through the ballot this fall, we will then remind those members that patronizing a tiny interest group and outgoing mayor instead of serving the people leads to a short political career.”
Asked about this possibility, Parker told the Chronicle, “The idea that we might possibly have a vote in November on whether or not the city of Houston should discriminate, I think, would be unfortunate, but they have the right to do that.”
Another antigay activist, Dave Wilson, said he plans to seek the recall of some of the council members who voted for the ordinance, and also to seek to amend the city charter to prevent anyone who is biologically male from using a women’s restroom, as the ordinance allows transgender people in Houston access to the facilities that correspond with their gender identity Such an amendment would have to go before voters, and the earliest it could appear on the ballot would be May 2015.