A transphobic campaign helped defeat Houston's anti-discrimination law

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Voters in Houston decided to axe the city's anti-discrimination law yesterday, after opponents to the bill mounted an aggressive transphobic campaign in the lead-up to the vote. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) would have provided protections against discrimination in housing, employment, and city services in particular.


Some of the ads against the bill, sponsored by a group called Campaign for Houston, suggested that a law providing protections for the rights of transgender people would lead to men stalking women's bathrooms. Here's a pretty good primer taking apart why that argument doesn't make sense, and why it's overtly transphobic:

The idea that allowing trans people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with is a danger to the public has been repeatedly debunked as a myth based on bigoted stereotypes, made worse by lazy reporting from media outlets.

HERO specifically made it illegal to discriminate against anyone not just on the basis of gender identity but also on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information or pregnancy.

Businesses, employers, and housing and city agencies would have been covered by the law, with a maximum fine of $5,000 if they were caught discriminating. Religious institutions were exempt from the law.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker was among the advocates for the bill. "No one's rights should be subject to a popular vote," she said after the bill's defeat last night. "It is insulting, it is demeaning, and it is just wrong."


She said Houston's rejection of the ordinance puts it behind 200 cities and 17 states with similar laws nationally.

"This was a campaign of fear mongering and deliberate lies. Deliberate lies. This isn't misinformation, this is a calculated campaign of lies designed to demonize a little-understood minority," she said.


The bill's defeat is an especially tough loss for proponents because it had already been in effect for a while–it was originally passed by the Houston City Council in April last year, before the Texas Supreme Court ordered in July this year that it should be suspended while waiting for a vote. Advocates say they're not done fighting for the bill.