Dear Houstonians, Let’s talk about HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance/Proposition 1).

As you are probably well aware, Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance was introduced by Mayor Annise Parker last year. Initially, it caused an uproar because of the inclusion of a piece that would let people use the bathrooms/locker rooms of their choice, depending on the gender they identify with.

Here’s a (very) brief history of HERO, via Texas Monthly:

Why Did Houston Pass An Equal Rights Ordinance?
Texas is one of more than twenty states without a statewide law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, individual cities and counties in the state can choose to pass their own non-discrimination ordinances.

Who Does HERO Apply To?

There’s some misinformation that HERO only applies to LGBT individuals, when in fact it is an ordinance that protects the rights of everyone who lives or works in Houston. The ordinance names “Protected Characteristics,” and makes discriminating against someone on the basis of these traits subject to punishment by a fine up to $5,000 over time. From HERO’s text:

[T]he City of Houston seeks to provide an environment that is free of any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy

Okay. Now here’s where I’m not completely clear. This same article states this:

Why All The Legal Drama?

When Parker unveiled HERO for the first time last year, there was a section that would allow people to use the restroom or locker room that best fit their gender identity. Although the section was ultimately removed a few weeks later—a decision that was approved not only by opponents of HERO, but also by Monica Roberts, a transgender blogger based in Houston—its initial inclusion sparked a lot of controversy and backlash from people.

This says that the restroom/locker room section was removed. However, when I looked for some recent information today (this Texas Monthly article is from Jan. 2015), this is what I found.

“HERO protects all people’s rights. I think for those who are concerned about people who may do something that is illegal, those protections are already here. Illegal behavior is already illegal behavior. I don’t think there’s much to worry about.”

HERO opponents adamantly disagree with that assertion. They’ve taken to the airwaves to voice their concerns. They insisted outlawing discrimination based on “gender identity” could prove dangerous. Even Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick weighed in on the measure, saying if HERO is allowed to stand grown men could enter a woman’s restroom anytime whenever they want.

“It’s not about equal rights. Equal rights are covered under the law. What it is about, by voting no to stop men who on any given day can consider themselves a woman and can go into a woman’s restroom,” said Lt. Governor Patrick. “If defies common sense and decency.”


And this…

Critics of the law have long alleged that it would allow male sexual predators dressed in drag to enter womens’ restrooms.

“What’s being lost is that it’s already illegal to go into a bathroom to harm or harass someone,” Reed says in the ad. “This law won’t change that. We looked into it, and HERO is actually about providing a needed local tool to protect Houstonians from discrimination based on their race, religion, age, gender, military status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.”

{Houston Chronicle}

So, what it seems to be, is that while the specific wording was removed, the actual act is still covered.

And personally, that is troubling.

This is what I wrote in response to a Facebook post asking about positions on HERO:

First of all, let me say that while I am a Christian, I do not feel my “Christian values” are being threatened with this. Nothing is going to threaten *my* faith. So that is that.

Originally, when I read the HERO ordinance, the biggest issue was the whole
“bathroom” thing. Then when I returned to read more into it, Texas Monthly wrote that the bathroom issue had been dismissed from the bill.

I just went back to make sure I knew what it was all covering, and it turns out the bathroom issue is still an issue.

I do not see a problem with the ordinance on the surface. It is basically the federal law, however, since the language of the federal law doesn’t include LGBT individuals, that group isn’t legally offered the same protections. And I am 100% in agreement with ending discrimination against LGBT people. No matter how I feel or what I am spiritually, I DO know wrong when I see it.

BUT. The bathroom part IS an issue for me. While it is not the fault of those who identify as LGBT, there ARE sick people out here. At ANY point, if a man wants to walk into a bathroom with a woman, all he would need to do is say (I don’t know how this logistically plays out) that he identifies as a woman. And that is troubling for me. Not only as a single woman who goes places by herself, but as an aunt of small children, etc.

This ordinance is going to get a “NO” vote for me. If I do not have the proper understanding, I am willing for someone to educate me. As for now, I will go and read more about it to again, make sure I have the proper understanding.

That last part remains true. I am still looking up more information to make 100% sure I am aware of what the bill says. I am aware that there are some places that are exempt. And I am also aware that there are places already that have gender-neutral bathrooms. I’ve been in them.

Again, it could be that I have a total misunderstanding (as I just read that the bathroom piece would only apply to city buildings? Confused!) and need to educate myself more. If you find yourself in the same boat with me, then I encourage you to do the same.

Here is a link to the actual ordinance.


UPDATED: October 25, 2015

I’m revisiting this, for a couple of reasons.

First, because I saw this commercial on TV after I initially wrote this:

And it touched on something that I’d been wondering. There are other cities that have a HERO-like ordinance in place. I was curious as to how those places have done as far as violence against women and children are concerned. According to this commercial, there hasn’t been an increase.

Second, I’d just like to say that I find it interesting that those who are concerned with this bathroom issue are receiving such backlash from those who support HERO. It is a legitimate concern. Now, who people should REALLY be upset with is the mayor. Had she not made such a big deal out of this ONE piece to begin with and tried to shove it down the throats of Houstonians, acceptance of this ordinance would more than likely not have been an issue. But her method was ALL WRONG. Even to the point of a court telling her to chill. And I won’t even go into the whole trying to subpoena local pastors’ sermons thing.

So I’m left with a decision. I know I said that my vote is a “no,’ however, I’m also wanting to make sure that I’m being reasonable. I absolutely 100% agree with (almost) every single part of this ordinance. All except one piece. Is that one piece a big enough concern to ignore all of the good in this ordinance? Or do I want to hold out (I know it depends on way more than just my vote, though LOL) in hopes that this piece will be appropriately addressed later (leave it up to the establishments) and a flawless ordinance is then introduced?

I’m sure this is a decision that many are struggling with. And I’d urge people to understand that the only reason there should be a “no” vote is because of a safety concern, and not because you’re supporting discrimination.

So that’s where I am. Guess I will have to come to a decision very soon, huh?

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