Chronicle: Don’t snatch away HERO protections

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The Houston Chronicle weighed in on efforts to undo city’s new Equal Rights Ordinance, calling it a misguided effort to settle civil rights measures at the ballot box.

The paper published the editorial favoring HERO, and mocking opponents for their fixation on potty politics based in fear and not fact, on Friday with the bland headline Non-controversial NDO. Their arguments were anything but:

But the rather staid nature of the nondiscrimination ordinance has not stopped opponents (mostly a few limited political and religious groups) from labeling it the “Sexual Predator Protection Act” and pursuing a ballot referendum to eliminate the new law.

The crux of this ad hominem invective is that opening the doors of civil society to transgender people – including restroom doors – will somehow also benefit criminals. This is an accusation based more in fear than fact.

Besides, the paper adds, scores of other cities across the country have similar ordinances already in place. Even Houston’s public school system beefed up its nondiscrimination ordinance in 2011 by adding “transgender” as a protected category.

Houstonians have patiently studied these others’ experiences, and the results are overwhelmingly positive. A city of sex criminals run amok only exists in the perverse fantasies of those prone to moral panics, desperately yearning for evidence that their fears were rightly founded. That evidence simply does not exist beyond the anecdotal urban legend.

And then the Chronicle closed with this:

We question the wisdom of settling civil rights issues at the ballot box – a topic that will be addressed in a later editorial. In the meantime, we encourage the ordinance’s opponents to open their ears – and their hearts. It was one thing when Houston lacked its own nondiscrimination ordinance. It will be something much crueler if today’s protections are snatched away.

HERO, challenged by a petition drive, could face a public vote in November. On July 3, opponents submitted more than 50,000 signatures calling for one. They need 17,269 verified signatures for the measure to go before voters. Mayor Annise Parker blasted the petition effort earlier this month.


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