Last week, San Antonio passed an ordinance protecting gay and transgendered residents and veterans from discrimination. Houston Mayor Annise Parker says that vote “upped the ante” and that Houston should follow suit.
“It is absolutely something we should do, and the majority of council members have publicly stated they are in support of a nondiscrimination ordinance,” said Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city. “But this is an issue that requires all of council to be engaged and agree it is time to move it forward. When it happens, we will do that.”
Parker’s spokeswoman Janice Evans said no action is expected before next year, and no specifics have been discussed.
City Attorney David Feldman said the wording would be tricky, given a 2001 voter-approved change to the City Charter prohibiting employees’ unmarried domestic partners – same sex and opposite sex – from receiving employment benefits.
The charter amendment also says the city cannot provide any “privilege” in employment or contracting on the basis of sexual orientation, which Feldman said has been interpreted to mean that gays could not be given preference, such as having their companies included in affirmative action contracting goals.
The charter amendment’s wording might allow a nondiscrimination ordinance to protect gays from discrimination in some areas, Feldman said, but more research is needed to be sure. Any Houston nondiscrimination measure would be odd, he said, because to comply with the charter, it would have to specify that some types of discrimination – specifically in the area of employment benefits – were allowed.
“We would have to either accommodate the prohibitions in the charter or, to effectuate it as San Antonio did, we would have to put an amendment on the ballot,” Feldman said. “The cleanest thing would be to take it the voters.”
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, a thousand times Yes. Let’s have a vote on this already. If you’ve been listening to my interviews, you’ve heard me ask all the candidates whether or not they’d support an effort to repeal that awful 2001 charter amendment, and for the most part the responses are positive. There had been some talk about putting a referendum over this on the ballot in 2012, but it never materialized. Because there were some minor charter amendments that were ratified on the 2012 ballot, the next such vote cannot take place until two years later. Since Election Day in 2012 was November 6 and Election Day 2014 will be November 4, that means the next eligible election for a charter amendment referendum would be May of 2015. I don’t know if it would be better to have it then or to wait till November of 2015, which may also feature an open-seat Mayoral race, but I firmly believe that given the relative closeness of the vote in 2001 and the changes in society and the Houston electorate since then that repealing the 2001 amendment would be a favorite. But by all means, let’s start talking about it now. Let’s make the case for repealing that discriminatory charter amendment, and for protecting the civil rights of all Houstonians. Let the haters like Dave Wilson make their case, too. The “morality” argument has basically crumbled to dust on them, and any claim on their part that they’re really nice people who just want to deny legal equality to others should be taken as the self-serving twaddle it is. So let’s get this started. I’m more than ready for it. Texpatriate, PDiddie, and Texas Leftist have more.