LGBT activists and progressive supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance are anxious to plot a strategy for reviving the failed ordinance, but Mayor Sylvester Turner said not so fast.
As a candidate, Turner supported HERO but was in no hurry to revive the non-discrimination ordinance after voters overwhelmingly defeated it on Nov. 3. Now, as mayor, Turner put the brakes on reconsidering the measure anytime soon. Via Outsmart:
Incoming mayor Sylvester Turner, who supported HERO, told OutSmart that his top priorities are addressing the city’s infrastructure needs and financial challenges—issues that have “universal agreement” among voters.
If he can first conquer potholes and pensions, Turner expects voters will give him permission to tackle other issues, including possibly HERO. “I think anything that’s a distraction from dealing with the infrastructure and the financial challenges really does a disservice to those particular areas,” Turner said. “So whether we’re talking about nondiscrimination, whether we’re talking about income inequality or educational initiatives, all of those things are important, but until we have met the challenges that are being presented by the infrastructure, and the financial challenges, I really don’t think at this point in time that Houstonians have an appetite for too much more than that.”
It's a strategy similar to one used by former Mayor Annise Parker, who took office in 2010 facing a fiscal crisis and didn't move on the ordinance until her third term. And when she did, it turned into a legal and political battle that ended in a crushing defeat last November.
Before Turner took office, HERO supporters on the City Council also expressed reluctance to pursuing a new ordinance in 2106 despite having the votes to pass it. But Turner told Outsmart that when he does turn to reviving HERO, he won't pare it to placate opponents opposed to its protections for transgender people.
Turner added that he would be reluctant to support a nondiscrimination ordinance that only covers employment and housing while leaving out the more controversial provisions related to public accommodations. “If you narrow the focus, I think you play into the fear-mongering that took place,” he said.
LGBT activists and progressive supporters of the ordinance spent hours during a public forum in January plotting a strategy for reviving HERO. But the sticking point for the next campaign is likely to be what opponents used to kill the measure three months ago – fear-mongering over trans people and restrooms. Via Outsmart:
Terri Burke, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said those were among the recommendations that emerged from a two-and-a-half-hour community debriefing on HERO that drew around 200 people on January 12.
“We agree that whatever happens next has to be citizen-led, not council-led,” said Burke, who chaired the meeting. “But everybody is in agreement—both the organizing groups and the public at large—that we can’t even think about that until we figure out how to overcome the bathroom argument. We need a multi-pronged public education campaign that’s aimed at transgender prejudice reduction.”
“The truth is, nobody knows how to combat the bathroom message,” Burke said. “We don’t in Houston, and they don’t anywhere else in the country. All the great minds in the country are trying to figure out how to respond to it. We have to come up with our six-word response to No Men in Women’s Bathrooms.”