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HERO’s Defeat Could Be Bad News For Big Business

Proponents of HERO used reason to get their point across, but they should’ve used dollar amounts.

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Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speaks to staff and volunteers in Houston Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015, who are working to get out the vote for Prop 1 - Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance.
Michael Stravato/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance’s failure wasn’t really a surprise, even with October polls showing that it was favored by a plurality of voters—43 percent to 37 percent, as of three weeks ago. That it was absolutely crushed was a bit of a stunner.

By a 2-1 margin, the people of Houston, America’s most diverse city and one that elected an openly gay mayor three consecutive terms, voted down an anti-discrimination ordinance that protected fifteen classes of people. Very similar laws were already on the books in every other major Texas city, but Houstonians apparently voted “no” nonetheless because they were terrified bringing in such a law would give sex creeps free reign to prey on women and girls in public bathrooms.

Meanwhile, a #boycotthouston hashtag was starting to pick up on Twitter Tuesday night, much like Houston’s mainstream business community had feared prior to the referendum on the ordinance. Asked about his fears should HERO go down in flames, here’s what Bob Harvey, president of the Greater Houston Partnership had to say:

There’s two levels of threat, the first being the immediate reaction around the country. Where it’s felt most immediately is conventions and tourism. But we’re concerned about corporate relocations. If you’re not seen as being progressive and open to all people, young talent or otherwise, you don’t make the shortlist of spots for corporate relocations for companies outside of Houston. And for international companies, frankly, this issue either doesn’t come up or has already come up and has been resolved. Why would they want to come to a city that’s still debating basic civil rights protections?

If anti-HERO ads appealed to every person’s worst fears, pro-HERO ads played to logic and decency—which was apparently a mistake. Instead of letting the anti-HERO forces define the issue, Houston’s business community should have taken the lead, maybe scripting one ad echoing what Harvey said above, another showing the real threat to Houston’s convention business and major events (namely, the 2017 Super Bowl) that could come from such a resounding endorsement of what the rest of the world will interpret as bigotry.

Because make no mistake – the rest of the world is ever-eager to have their opinion of Texas as a haven for bigots and yahoos endorsed. What plays well in Kingwood and Clear Lake no longer is received well in London, Berlin and New York, and while the local suburbanites might say that don’t give a damn, they might when a multinational uses this as an excuse to choose Atlanta, Dallas, or Chicago over Houston.

Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if the margin of defeat wasn’t so huge, but when two-thirds of your citizens are perceived as bigots, well, that’s a bit of a problem. And it now seems likely that Houston, a city already beset with oil industry layoffs, a looming pension crisis, major infrastructure issues, and budget shortfalls, is about to face a national and worldwide backlash, no matter how hip and tasty and funky our chamber of commerce tried to portray Houston as, no matter how many consecutive terms we elected the openly gay mayor to serve.

H.L. Mencken said, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Maybe outgoing Mayor Annise Parker was a Mencken fan. Maybe that’s why she didn’t want to put this measure, which was approved by Houston’s city council 1106, to a popular vote. Maybe our elected officials wanted to spare Houston the embarrassment it is about to endure on the national stage.

Sometimes even politicians know what’s best for us.

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  • don76550

    You suggest that the business climate of Houston will suffer because of the defeat of a bunch of perverts. What utter crap.

    • bluestreak

      Less than 24 hours after Houston voted to make discrimination legal, the city has lost its bids to host the 2018, ’19 and ’20 college football championship games. It lost to three cities with LGBT discrimination protections. let the crap begin . . .

      • Mark982

        blue, you cannot say for sure as to why Houston lost out on the CF Championship game. Unless you were in with all those who voted, you are guessing. Houston has done fine without any sports championships for decades. Yes there has been an occasional championship game here and there but the diversification of the Houston Metro job market has kept the area as one of the country’s greatest job market for a long time regardless of any votes for or against homosexual agendas.

    • breed7

      “Perverts” weren’t defeated. People with below-average intelligence won. We all know that don76550 fits into that category.

      • don76550

        What you do is indeed a perversion.

        • Samuel Wells

          Yep. And you eating shellfish, wearing mixed fabrics, letting your wife/girlfriend live in the house while she’s on her period, having tattoos, watching FOOTBALL ON SUNDAY…the list goes on and on…now, let’s see which of these you cherry pick. Take your faith and stick it where Jesus don’t shine!

          • don76550

            Your incoherant diatribe suggests you missed your dose of prozac

          • Jeanette Victoria

            Do all you people all go to the same misinformed webpage to get these ridiculous quotes

          • Mark982

            laughable at the lack of Biblical knowledge. No, not laughable, sad so very sad.

    • ╚DJ╦STEPHEN►V╗

      You ignorant piece of trash. Go wash your trailer and stfu.

      • Indiana Pearl

        Don is a limed up old guy. Be patient.

      • Mark982

        so angry and vulgar.

    • stranger

      don76550 you need a real good eye roll right now

    • PatBryanTX2

      You ate the pile of crap that Hotze fed you.

  • rakohlin

    And apparently citizens no longer believe a government that says ” trust us,we know what’s best for you.” They have let down the average citizen to cater to special interest groups that get them elected. It would have served the Mayor well to remember she was elected to represent ALL of Houston citizens.

    • GH

      I don’t know about you, but I can assure that I am in no way a special interest group. I’m just one person wanting equal rights. “Am I asking for the stars? No, not really…”

      • The*REAL*TrulyJulie

        Equal rights? You lack the right to tinkle in a public restroom like the rest of us?

    • Glenna Jones-Kachtik

      One small special interest group? So it is OK with you that citizens who pay their taxes JUST LIKE YOU are denied equal rights – because it makes YOU uncomfortable. Human rights should never be at the whim of voters. I would imagine that in some places – even today – if you put it up to a vote to own slaves & that those slaves were black – slavery would pass with a resounding victory. People are that hateful.

      • rakohlin

        You don’t want EQUAL rights, you want YOUR rights to trump others. You are the hateful one. Slavery is not the issue and by bringing that up, you express your intolerance with anyone that thinks their rights are as important as anyone elses

        • Glenna Jones-Kachtik

          Here’s the problem with your post. I AM NOT GAY, NOR BI-SEXUAL.. Neither am I transgendered nor a cross dresser. So, it isn’t MY RIGHTS that I want to trump others. Look Christians recently have decided that they are persecuted & everyone is trying to take away their rights. In reality what is happening is that slowly, around the USA people are tumbling to the fact that GAY PEOPLE ALSO HAVE RIGHTS. The problem is that people are now being looked at as being bigots & being discriminatory when they express the idea that gay people should not have the same rights as any other taxpaying citizen of America. Some of them have served their country with distinction & have left limbs in foreign lands. My decorated gay Marine friend who lost his leg in Iraq should have just as much right to marry his gay Army buddy as the next hero to marry his girlfriend.
          Intolerance IS the issue. I do not begrudge any Christian their right to express their opinion….What I disagree with is a majority of Christians placing something on a ballot that has to do with human rights. This is not a democracy. This should be a win/win situation not a someone wins someone looses situation. YOUR rights ARE important but YOU are the one who thinks that THEIR RIGHTS trump others because they aren’t your type of people.
          I think my analogy with slavery IS a correct one. In the south today there are still bigoted, prejudiced people. They would gleefully vote slavery back in & they see most black people as lazy & in need of a master. If not outright slavery; they would still say that the black man shouldn’t have as many rights as the white people. You hear it from their lips all the time.
          My rights end where yours start; but the opposite is equally true – your rights end where mine begin…Sometimes we agree & sometimes we don’t BUT each of us has a right to our opinion.

          • Alyssa Burgin

            Glenna is exactly right. As for a perversion–here’s what’s a perversion–allowing people to vote on whether some among them get to have rights. OMG, look at how inherently wrong that is! But I understand–some of you folks have no critical thinking skills remaining after watching Fox News.

          • Jeanette Victoria

            ROTFLOL a person who thinks a man dressed up as a woman is the same as a biological woman is talking about “critical thinking skills” too funny I couldn’t make up such absurdity.

          • Alyssa Burgin

            Question, Fox News watcher–is this person you describe a human being? Then they deserve human rights. I write, by the way, from a city (San Antonio) where these laws are already in effect. We haven’t had a crime spurt of ‘men going into women’s bathrooms.’ Do you not see how juvenile that obsession is? Do you really believe that this is a ‘thing’–really? Which planet do you occupy, because it’s not happening. Call up SAPD and ask them about it. We’re grown-ups–we don’t think or act like sexually immature adolescents, obsessed with bathrooms. You poor manipulated sheep–you have been used by repressed and bigoted people and now you’re going to suffer economically for it. Glad I don’t live in your backwards, ignorant city.

          • Mark982

            Any thing not mentioned in the Constitution as to what the federal government should handle was left to the States and the people of the State of Texas in Houston have spoken with the vote. They did not want men dressed as women in women’s restrooms and vice versa. Go lobby for more of those single stall restrooms with the pictograph of men/women on them. That will settle the issue of public restrooms for those that have issues with who they are.

          • Glenna Jones-Kachtik

            Since YOU guys are the ones with the problem; YOU lobby for the restrooms with the single stalls…. This is a non issue anyway. Men who want to rape women don’t count on bathrooms – assault hardly ever happens there UNLESS it is a pedophile & that is a whole separate issue. But you go ahead & believe in your heart of hearts that by making transgendered females & males pee in the bathrooms of their gender at birth – you have saved women (& men too) from being raped in their bathrooms.

  • Mike Crognale

    Not only did the righteous rise up to defeat the perverts but they also imposed term limits on all their elected officials. Nicely done Houstonians. Nicely done.

    • george999

      They actually loosened term limits on elected officials. Shorter term limits had been in place for almost 25 years.

    • paine sense

      Isn’t “pervert” a synonym for “Texan.” And face reality. A large percentage of those who voted against the ordinance, especially evangelicals, are repressed homosexuals.

      • rakohlin

        Wow !! Well said. What liberal bastion of education taught you that? That really got ’em !!!

      • Chris Anderson

        repressed? you are weird. Texas. # 1 in job production over the last 7 years of BHO. If you remove Texas from the numbers, America is in a depression. now put that in your pipe and smoke that.

        • Alyssa Burgin

          Those are oil and gas jobs, and the expansion correlates exactly to the expansion of shale drilling. Now you can watch them go down, which is what they’re doing.

  • george999

    Houston is also the only major city that does not have zoning. For
    better or worse it’s an anti-regulation place. People were not convinced
    this bill was needed.

    A big part of the problem was a poorly written ordinance. There were 15 protected classes in it. For example, does anyone really think veterans have a serious problem with discrimination in Houston or anywhere in Texas? Also for example the disabled are well protected by the ADA. No one wants to get sued under the ADA. They made it too broad and failed to show there was a current problem for each of the 15 protected classes that required a major law to resolve it.

    The second problem was taking an all or nothing approach was arrogant and self-defeating. Had the ordinance been focused purely on gays and lesbians it would never have had a successful recall petition in the first place. Pass that first, add a logical transgender bill later if and most likely when people become more supportive of that.

    • Alistair

      The vast majority of the 15 categories that were included are already protected. The simple problem however, is that with our justice system as it is (as backed up as it is) any lawsuit would take years to wind its way through the courts, and that would take time and money, two things that some people just don’t have.

      • george999

        Veterans have a serious problem with discrimination in Houston or anywhere in Texas for that matter? Pregnant women have a major discrimination problem in Houston that is not well handled? The ADA does not make it pretty easy for the disabled to file both administratively and legally against a landlord for example? The ADA is not well enforced when it comes to new construction? Cases against businesses are not largely open and shut when it comes to disabled protections such service dogs? There are not plenty of activist organizations supplying legal support to the disabled? Women are openly discriminated against in Houston when it come to employment or housing in a manner that this ordinance could prove in municipal court but not in federal court?

        African Americans are openly discriminated against in a manner that is easily proven in court? The discrimination African Americans for example still face is usually not the type that can be easily proven in court. Cases under this ordinance still have to go to court. The legal system is slow for all people.

        There’s a reason this ordinance was thought of as an LGBT protection ordinance. That was the main purpose for the ordinance. The most important mistake is the main group of even moderate size in the population that clearly does not have any form of protection at the city, state or federal level are gays and lesbians. They also have a reasonable amount of support. When in politics is it smart to take an all or nothing approach?

        Would it not have made much more sense to pass an ordinance for the one group that is both clearly unprotected under current law and is of large enough size to be common in the workplace? Why not save transgender for later? It’s a much smaller group and a much more debated topic. Why not resolve it for the 90%+ of the people who need it and get the rest later? Doesn’t that seem like a much more practical approach?

        For better or worse Houston is an anti-regulation city. If you are trying to pass a major regulation shouldn’t you be able to show there is a major, current problem in Houston affecting all included classes in a way that the ordinance would significantly improve? Instead half the argument seems to be that, well everyone else has one.

        • Chris Anderson

          Leftist want it ALL. Take no prisoners and destroy the right. That is why they lost. They put all their eggs in 1 basket and it was destroyed.

          • CrissCross

            Wanting ALL the civil rights that are available is their right. They are supposed to have them ALL.
            The Christian right needs to wake up to the reality that denying a group of citizens their fundamental civil rights could just as easily be turned around and used as justification for denying anyone else (including Christians) their civil rights.
            The only way to avoid that is to ensure that everyone does have what the constitution supposedly guarantees them.

            Doing unto others WILL ALWAYS be reciprocated.

    • Jed

      equal rights are not subject to the will of the majority. that is the reason we have a constitution.

      should SCOTUS, kennedy, lbj, and congress have waited for the southern states to vote on their own to end segregation? would it be over yet if so?

      this entire argument shows an astonishing lack of historical perspective. every argument against HERO has been offered in the past to defend positions that none of us would defend today. anyone making these arguments should be asked to explain why it isn’t OK for us to segregate bathrooms by race anymore.

      why is this so hard for houstonians to recognize? sh**ty schools aside, of course.

    • Chris Anderson

      Well said. Yes. Houston is totally anti-regulation.

  • bluestreak

    Houston has not reached the World Class City status it aspires & portends to be. Perhaps with the next & more accepting generation. I’ll be anxious to see what Forbes thinks of us now? Or is that consider the “liberal media’s” opinion?

  • Holly Raymond

    Nice try Texas Monthly…
    The “silent majority” is becoming desensitized to the over played scare tactics.
    How about getting back to promoting the unique beauty of Texas and away from the political persuasion game?

    • Jed

      this election result *is* the unique beauty of texas.

      just ask any bigot. they are apparently crawling with them in houston.

      • Holly Raymond

        Opponents have chosen a position of hate and intolerance for anyone not sharing their view in this. THAT is being a “bigot”. Being rude and bullyish does not resolve anything and only further perpetuates the divide. Almost everyone I know would have supported this had it been more specifically worded and if it took into consideration the privacy of women – more directly – young women and girls.
        And it’s not a dem vs repub topic. Many of my D friends voted this down.
        As w many controversial topics there is an overwhelming tendency to oversimplify and vilify opposition.
        Which is counterintuitive to reaching resolution.

        • Jed

          your concern for the privacy of young women, from whom? they are already sharing public restrooms with others, are they not? so what would be different now?

          do you see how there is no way to answer that question that isn’t bigoted? it doesn’t matter of your friends are democrats, republicans, or plutonians, if they think that privacy is a bigger issue for girls now than before, then they are bigots.

          plus, bonus newsflash – those same people are already using the same restroom as you, and they will continue to do so (what alternative do they have? and was there an uptick in bathroom incidents when this ordinance first went into effect? didn’t hear about it if there was). all you have done is make them feel persecuted about it. as in, not tolerated. as in, intolerance.

          • Holly Raymond

            the issue is with the vagueness of the wording regarding who may or may not enter a restroom / locker room. and yes, you can answer a question without being bigoted. it’s in your wording, attitude and level of respect.
            regardless of what your own personal beliefs are – other people in this country retain the right to differ from you and to have a voice.
            that is what the democratic system is.
            it will not always fall in favor of one side, and during those times of defeat it is up to the other side to recognize that the majority has spoken and that clearly the topic needs to be revisited to reach a point of mutual compromise.
            maintaining a stance of sarcasm, name calling and scare tactics is not only insulting – but completely useless and as i said before – counterintuitive.
            why would i take the time to have this exchange with you? aside from the fact that you felt led to comment on my post to TM, i still retain a fragment of hope that this country is not so deeply divided that it can no longer hear the concerns of others. that there is a glimmer of hope that we as a country can return to a place of unity that benefits all and not only some.
            compromise – it is an absolute requirement of a democracy.

          • Jed

            you talk about unity while defending a vote to marginalize a group, with arguments that 50 years ago would have been used to defend segregation. you decry scare tactics when that is all your side has.

            you do have the right to a voice. and i have the right to continue calling you a bigot. indeed, a duty to do so.

          • Holly Raymond

            And there lies the problem. Inability to reason…
            Your refusal to address the real issue and diversion to paint opposers as villains out to victimize.
            A: this is not the same as race, so don’t attempt to connect it to an invalid argument.
            B: It’s good to protect transgender people. They should be protected. But the definition of what a transgender person is needs to be clarified to a discernible point not just one of subjection.
            Especially when you are tacking on $5,000 fines for insubordination. So get your head out of the playground sand box and start actually working towards a resolution instead of continuing the childish name calling.
            You are doing nothing for your cause other than drawing a deeper line in the sand.

          • Jed

            so your argument is that someone should be entitled to equal protection of law regardless of race, but that this shouldn’t apply to someone on the basis of gender identity?

            how do you feel about equal rights for women? is that different from race, too? what about the disabled? the elderly? people of faith?

            did i miss the part of the declaration of independence and 14th amendment to the constitution where it specified *which* people are to be treated equally?

            i agree that inability to reason is the problem here. but like everything else that comes from the right, you need to look in a mirror when you say that. i have many flaws, but inability to reason is not one of them.

            as for your line in the sand, you can have it. this is bedrock stuff.

          • Holly Raymond

            oh gaaawd – i clearly am wasting my time with you. please please quit posting now.

          • Jed
  • bluestreak

    Less than 24 hours after Houston voted to make discrimination legal, the city has lost its bids to host the 2018, ’19 and ’20 college football championship games. It lost to three cities with LGBT discrimination protections. hmmmm . . .

    • The*REAL*TrulyJulie

      That’s an illogical non-starter. These types of contracts aren’t hastily doled out willy-nilly in a matter of hours. And yet, the announcement was made mere hours after HERO was shut down. They’re simply not related.

      Have you driven Houston’s crumbling streets lately? Tried to use the city’s poorly-designed mass transit system? Been to the stadium and enjoyed the nearby hotels, dining, shopping, and night life that the area offers? Well, what do you know – those amenities simply don’t exist.

      Houston lost out to beautiful, state-of-the-art cities with excellent infrastructure and well-designed services capable of handling an influx of visitors.

      • Jed

        yep, houston is a suckhole.

        or wasn’t that your point?

        • Indiana Pearl

          Just got back from Indiana – “Fire Mike Pence!” signs everywhere. His foolish attack on LGBT folks has damaged the state’s economy. Even the notoriously conservative CofC freaked. I’ve read it will take 20 years for IN to undo the PR damage.

          • Jed

            i don’t think this concern holds much water.

            pro sports owners, fans, and athletes are not the most progressive bunch. i don’t think the nfl is too worried about any impact to their business model for having been seen as intolerant to the LGBT community. after all, they already are.

          • Indiana Pearl

            Reporting the response by rural Hoosiers – not a liberal bunch – to Pence’s witless governance. The NFL is another matter.

        • The*REAL*TrulyJulie

          Well, it’s certainly not the ‘world class city’ that many of its proponents want to make it out to be.

  • Samuel Wells

    I find it funny that the majority of child molestation cases have been caused by a former House Speaker (Dennis Hastert), priests and evangelicals (Josh Duggar), yet there wasn’t an ordinance that would prohibit these types of people from entering public facilities. Seems like Houston doesn’t know how to actually solve a problem (consider me so surprised).

  • RedShirtCowboy

    The reason that the ordinance failed is that the Mayor poorly defined the narrative. She is the one that left Houstonians with the impression that it was all about LGBT discrimination. She was the one that fed into the idea of “the bathroom ordinance”. If instead of surrounding herself with LGBT advocates she had surrounded herself with Veterans organizations, AARP, Disabled Americans Advocates, and LGBT advocates, things would have been different. Why? Because the ordinance would have helped them as well, especially the provision were a veteran’s prior service record, particularly in combat, could not be used to deny them employment.

    The vote against the ordinance was more about her arrogance and wanting to be a hero of the LGBT community, than it was to prevent discrimination. The vote was against her inability to want to compromise. All she had to do was set a protection for public bathrooms. Allow the ordinance to cover Unisex bathrooms only. Just adding one line to the ordinance would have saved all this time and money.

    • Jed

      “All she had to do was set a protection for public bathrooms. Allow the ordinance to cover Unisex bathrooms only. Just adding one line to the ordinance would have saved all this time and money.”

      i see a version of this comment everywhere i go.

      hasn’t it occurred to any of you that this would undermine the entire point of the enterprise? it may not be a “bathroom ordinance,” per se, but public bathrooms are still a source of discrimination and difficulty for this community. to say, “why didn’t you just exempt that” is to ask why we couldn’t just vote on an anti-discrimination ordinance that doesn’t actually prohibit discrimination.

  • Carol Morgan

    The extremists effectively framed HERO through the “pervert in the bathroom” meme, and HERO was much more than about men in the bathroom. Our state extremists are highly skilled in twisting things around so they are not what they seem. Remember when they shut down women’s health clinics in the name of women’s health? Frankly, I’ve given up on Texas ever joining the rest of the world in the millennia. God, guns, and ignorance should be our new motto.

  • Chris Anderson

    What a load of leftist propaganda. The measure lost. the left did not get out their base. Or the Right was able to get theirs out more. This was a republic form of Democracy in action. You lost. get over it.
    If you had won, you would be crowing, Stop crying.
    Man or woman or transgender UP.
    Maybe the people of America are just tired of having crap shoved down their throats all the time. Maybe if you gave a little (allowing prayer in school and before games), then this ordance might have passed.

    • Jed


      “if you allow some unconstitutional stuff we want, we might allow you to end the unconstitutionality we previously insisted on in another area.” that’s a funny bargain even if you meant it, which you don’t.

      why do conservatives hate america?

  • Joedtails

    Why couldn’t the PROBLEMS be that two things that have nothing to do with each other should not rely on the same vote?

    • Jed


      separating different issues into distinct votes would dramatically improve our collective decision making.

  • booth1860

    Ya’ll give new meaning to the words “watch your p’s & q’s”. It seems to have been changed to perverts & queers!

  • MichaelGC

    Reading this article makes me wish that I had a subscription to Texas Monthly — so I could cancel it.