It went about as you’d expect.
Houston is the last of America’s largest cities not to have local anti-discrimination protections, a fact some lauded and others condemned Wednesday during the first opportunity for public comment on Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed equal rights ordinance.
Parker is poised to place the ordinance before City Council for a vote next week. City Attorney David Feldman said the final language of the proposal would be released by Friday.
“We’re still listening. We’re still tweaking,” he told council at the start of a five-hour committee hearing attended by about 200 residents.
The measure would ban discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, family status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as federal laws do.
Feldman said the local ordinance would expand the options of people whose only other choices would be to seek help from the U.S. Department of Justice or file a costly civil lawsuit.
Parker’s proposal also would cover sexual orientation and gender identity, which are not protected under current Texas or federal law. In addition to private businesses, the ordinance would apply to housing, city employment and city contracting. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.
Bobby Singh, a Sikh, recounted his college days in Houston when his friends would be allowed into bars and clubs, but he would be denied because of his turban. Jenifer Pool, a business owner and appointee to city commissions, choked up as she described the day she came home to find the locks to her home changed and an eviction notice on the door shortly after she came out as transgendered. Alexandra Smoots-Hogan, a Harris County Civil Court judge, said she and a friend were denied entry to a bar on Washington Avenue in February because of the color of their skin.
“We had no recourse,” said Smoots-Hogan, who is black.
Pastors from the Lutheran, Unitarian Universalist, Methodist and Episcopalian traditions supported the ordinance as a reflection of the Biblical value to treat all people with dignity.
See here for the background. In opposition was the usual cadre of haters and reactionaries, all making the same predictions they always make about doom and gloom and the destruction of society if we dare to treat everyone as full human beings. Well, if you’ll pardon my language, they’ve been wrong about this every fucking step of the way, and they’re wrong now. I don’t know what else there is to say. Council just needs to pass this. Campos has more.