By Justin Wm. Moyer on WashingtonPost.com



 

Houston voters defeated a closely-watched gay rights ordinance on Election Day. It would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in the city. (AP)

Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), designed to protect the rights of gay citizens and others, has failed by a wide margin — after a hard-fought campaign in which opponents warned it would give male sexual predators access to women’s bathrooms.

On Tuesday, Houston voters were presented with this question: “Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?”

While the final results were not in as of early Wednesday, it seems almost two-thirds of voters said “No.” At 12:30 a.m. EST, the tally was 61 percent opposed, 39 percent in favor with 95 percent of precincts reporting,as ABC13 noted.

“This was a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies,” Houston Mayor Annise Parker (D) — the city’s first lesbian mayor who said HERO was “personal” — said, as KHOU reported. “No one’s rights should be subject to a popular vote.”

“We are disappointed with today’s outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue,” Houston Unites, a coalition of groups supporting HERO that includes the ACLU of Texas and Houston’s NAACP chapter, said in a statement. “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.”

But as much as HERO’s proponents decried the vote, the proposition was rejected by a decisive majority of the citizens of the nation’s fourth-largest city. Turnout was strong among white conservatives and African Americans — demographics likely to oppose the measure, as the Los Angeles Times pointed out.

“I just hope that cities across the nation are watching,” Pastor Steve Riggle of Houston’s Grace Community Church said after the vote, as Fox 26 reported. “And that leaders … will step up and stand up and stand against this thing that’s encroaching across the nation with intimidation and fear and telling people who just believe in common moral decency that they have no voice.”

The fight over what became known as the “bathroom ordinance” began last year when Houston’s city council passed the anti-discrimination measure. After it was in effect for just three months, a lawsuit demanding the city either repeal the ordinance or have residents vote on it prevailed.

 

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