Last week I reported that Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s current draft of a Human Rights Ordinance doesn’t include citywide employment protections for LGBT people.
I also mentioned that the city’s largest LGBT group, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, is calling on Parker to include citywide employment protections in the proposed ordinance, which she’s expected to introduce to the City Council later this month.
Parker’s fear, according to reports, is that if the ordinance covers employment in the private sector, it won’t have enough votes to pass the City Council.
The proposed ordinance would prohibit anti-LGBT discrimination in housing and public accommodations. But as currently written, it would only cover municipal employees and city contractors when it comes to employment, leaving out the private sector.
Over the weekend, Noah Horwitz at Texpatriate reported that citywide employment protections are just one vote shy of the 9-vote majority needed to pass Houston’s council:
“I got all this info secondhand from trusted sources, but understand it may not be completely accurate. Accordingly, take this with a grain of salt. As I currently understand it, there are eight supporters of the private employment provision (Annise Parker, Stephen Costello, David Robinson, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Ed Gonzalez, Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster) and five opponents (Jack Christie, Brenda Stardig, Dave Martin, Richard Nguyen and Oliver Pennington). The remaining four Councilmembers (Michael Kubosh, C.O. Bradford, Dwight Boykins and Larry Green) are somewhere in the middle.”
A source involved in lobbying for citywide employment protections confirmed to Lone Star Q on Monday that Horwitz’s list is accurate, “but with some wiggle room around Stardig.” Horwitz went on to call for Parker to include citywide employment protections in the Human Rights Ordinance:
“I do truly hope everyone comes to their senses and votes for this logical and fair ordinance. Indeed, Houston always prides itself on being inclusive and pragmatic on such issues. But if we cannot come to such an amicable agreement, Parker needs to fight like hell for what is morally correct. Let justice be done though the heavens fall.”
Horwitz isn’t the only blogger who has taken the position that the ordinance should cover private sector employment. Texas Leftist writes:
“It’s true that any step is a step forward, especially in these times of heightened contention in politics. But if a Council Member wants to allow discrimination to continue, they deserve to be put on record with a vote. Instead of protecting them, Parker and her administration should let them deal with the Progressive community’s ire.”
“If it is true that the proposed Houston Human Rights Ordinance will not cover citywide employment, that is unacceptable to me and the Houston POC [people of color] LGBT community who get the brunt of the anti-LGBT discrimination.”
In response to questions from Lone Star Q, Parker spokeswoman Janice Evans reiterated Monday morning that the ordinance is still being drafted — even though the mayor has clearly indicated it doesn’t currently include citywide employment protections. In response to a request for an interview, Evans pointed me to Parker’s regular media availability on Wednesday.
In case you’re wondering, contact information for all Houston City Council members is available here.
Also, it’s worth noting that of the 34 Houston-based employers listed on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index 2014, only 11 — or fewer than one-third — have fully LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination policies. This shows why citywide employment protections are so desperately needed, and let’s hope representatives from those 11 employers will be among the people asking council members to support them. The Houston-based companies with fully inclusive nondiscrimination policies include such heavyweights as BP America, Shell Oil and Waste Management Inc., according to HRC.