Opponents of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance claim they’ve gathered enough signatures to put a repeal on the ballot in November, but Mayor Annise Parker said she’s confident voters would “soundly defeat” the initiative.
Opponents of the ordinance said they turned in 50,000 signatures on Thursday, meeting the deadline of 30 days after the ordinance took effect. They said about 30,000 of the signatures have already been validated as coming from registered city of Houston voters, according to the Houston Chronicle. That’s almost twice as many as the 17,269 signatures needed to place the repeal on the ballot. The City Secretary’s Office now has until Aug. 4 to complete the validation process.
After opponents turned in their signatures, supporters of the ordinance, wearing red, gathered in the City Hall Rotunda for a press conference led by Parker, who authored the measure banning anti-LGBT discrimination.
“The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” Parker said later in a release. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or whom you choose to love. I am confident voters will soundly defeat any challenge to the ordinance.
“Let’s be clear, this in no way grants men the unfettered right to access women’s bathrooms or locker rooms,” Parker said. “It is simply not true and I know Houstonians are wise enough to see through the misrepresentations and exaggerations.”
In her remarks at City Hall, Parker also addressed the issue of transgender bathroom use, which has been opponents’ No. 1 rallying cry against the ordinance.
“Those who are opposed to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance go on and on and on and on obsessively about whether this has everything to do with men in women’s bathrooms,” Parker said. “Let me be very, very clear: It is illegal today. It will be illegal tomorrow. It will be illegal under this ordinance or not under this ordinance for a man to go into a women’s bathroom, period. It is illegal today to go into a place of public accommodations with the intent of committing a crime. It was illegal before, it’s going to be illegal after. This strange obsession with where transgendered men and women choose to do some basic human function, which is toileting, is mystifying to me, and frankly a little strange.”
Parker also addressed the issue on Twitter:
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO, prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy.
Before the ordinance passed in May, Houston was the only major city in the U.S. that lacked citywide LGBT protections. Supporters of the ordinance have said they feel a ballot measure in November could have the unintended effect of boosting the Democratic ticket in Harris County by galvanizing pro-LGBT voters.
Watch Parker’s remarks at Thursday’s press conference, as well as a report from KTRK, below.
Supporters of HERO have also launched a web site, HOUequality.com, to provide info and answer questions about the ordinance.