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HERO affirmed by Council

It’s official – HERO will be on the ballot this fall.

RedEquality

City Council voted to affirm Houston’s equal rights ordinance Wednesday, a move that will send the law to voters in November per a Texas Supreme Court ruling.

City Council voted 12-5 to leave the law in place, with Councilmen Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, Michael Kubosh, Jack Christie and Councilwoman Brenda Stardig voting to repeal the ordinance. A Texas Supreme Court ruling issued last month ordered the city to either repeal the ordinance or put it on the November ballot.

“All we’re saying by this is that everyone should have an equal opportunity to equal rights,” Councilwoman Ellen Cohen said.

Here’s the longer version of the story, and a story from Tuesday previewing things. HOUEquality reported the vote as 13-4; I’m not sure where the discrepancy lies. CM Dwight Boykins, who voted against HERO last year, voted to keep the law in place, though not because of a change of heart; he sent out a press release saying his constituents wanted to have a change to “vote up or down on HERO”. Whatever. He did include the full text of the ordinance, which as it happens will be on the referendum:

“Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?”

Not sure why anyone would want to vote against that, but hey, I’m not Jared Woodfill. Or Bill King, for that matter.

“Voters are put to a false dilemma by the politicians,” King said in a statement Wednesday. “If you vote for repeal, you are in favor of discrimination. If you vote against repeal, you are in favor of men using women’s restrooms. Like most Houstonians, I favor neither. I cannot in good conscience advocate either for or against the proposition.”

King, who bills himself as a moderate fiscal conservative, is seeking the support of Houston’s conservative west side — a group of voters City Councilman Stephen Costello and 2013 mayoral runner-up Ben Hall also are courting.

Hall is a staunch opponent of the nondiscrimination law, while Costello and the candidates to his left support it.

That puts King in a difficult position, Texas Southern University political science professor Jay Aiyer said.

“He needs to make a runoff on the strength of conservative voters, but he recognizes that winning a runoff opposing HERO might be difficult,” Aiyer said, noting that Houston voters are predominantly Democratic. The top two vote-earners in November will advance to a December runoff.

By continuing to straddle the fence, Aiyer said, King may alienate both sides.

King refuses to take a position on HERO. That Chron story calls it “straddling”; I call it “avoiding”, and I think it’s gutless. If Bill King would like to articulate a sober, non-bigoted rationale for opposing HERO, I say go for it. I’m sure the Greater Houston Partnership and all the Fortune 500 companies in town that have their own non-discrimination policies and have supported HERO as being good for their businesses would love to hear it as well. I’d suggest that he might want to do a little research first, lest he ignorantly parrot one of the scurrilous lies being propagated by those bigoted opponents he doesn’t want to be associated with. Maybe if he does that, he can then figure out what he should do, and let the rest of us know.

Anyway. As we know, a lot of the opposition will be coming from a group of pastors, plus scoundrels like Woodfill. I’m hearing that he and his pals are trying to scare up a “straight slate” for various Council positions, because nothing says modern and forward-moving like harking back to 1985. I’ve said my piece about how I think the campaign ought to go; I’m glad to see that the idea of using beloved celebrities to advocate for HERO, which occurred to more than just me, is catching on. If you want to get involved locally, check out and give a like to Houston Unites. All hands on deck, y’all. We can’t have anyone sit this one out.

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20 Comments

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    This should make for an interesting election in the city. I question the city government’s commitment to equality, when the same body made laws that make it difficult for community groups and churches to feed the homeless in public, and made it illegal to sit on the sidewalk downtown. Clearly, the poor, the homeless and the mentally ill are not regarded as equals. The repeal of these laws is one of the factors that has influenced me to run for District C City Council.

  2. joshua ben bullard says:

    i dont remember jack christie voting to repeal , i thought he voted to affirm it on to nov????

    joshua bullard

  3. Jules says:

    I watched the live feed. Kubosh also went off on a bit of a rant against the pro-bono attorneys that worked on HERO lawsuits, basically saying they malpractised. Bradford also was not a fan of the pro-bono attorneys, but did not accuse them of anything.

    Bradford also proposed different wording which would cause the voters to vote Yes to keep HERO, the wording they picked will cause voters to vote No to keep HERO. They had one of the City’s attorneys there to answer questions and I do agree that the wording chosen is correct, although I could see Bradford’s point. Someone suggested at one point that the wording was designed to trick people against because of voting No to keep. Ridiculous.

    Watching these meetings is so painful, until they get to the part I’m interested in. Stardig in particular seems to like the sound of her own voice and to get her dumb opinions out there.

  4. Paul Kubosh says:

    O.K. you guys the language is not confusing that is not the point. Read the Charter yourself and you will see what

    ANDY TAYLOR

    is talking about.

    Remember also that the Mayor’s legal team has not given her good advice when it comes to counting signatures. She is on record as saying that the policy of the City is to do as follows:

    Mayor Parker: Just to make sure that council members understand the new policy in the City of Houston is that the City Attorney’s office Reviews all petitions for accuracy and relevance before the City Secretary devotes her time and resources to counting them.

    This is a ridiculous statement. I know she is everyone’s heroine but she has been burned before by her pride. If I was her I would listen to

    ANDY TAYLOR

    and change the language.

    Just my opinion

  5. Jules says:

    Paul, do you agree with the language Bradford proposed?

  6. Paul kubosh says:

    I didn’t hear it.but probably.

  7. Paul kubosh says:

    Read it…typo

  8. J says:

    “Not sure why anyone would want to vote against that, but hey, I’m not Jared Woodfill.”

    I love it. Apparently, Kuff is going to vote yes, then. I guess that pretty much makes the point that Andy Taylor and Clarence Bradford were pushing regarding the ballot wording. The point that the Mayor was witheringly nasty and insulting about.

  9. voter_worker says:

    I expected it, but not this soon: a Change.org petition to the NFL advocating moving the Super Bowl out of Houston if HERO is voted down came to my attention this evening.

  10. Jules says:

    Yes, Paul, Bradford’s point wasn’t that it was confusing it was that he was trying to make the ballot language follow the charter. And the lawyer for the city said it should follow the petition language. I believe your brother scrapped his amendment and agreed with Bradford.

    I thought both made good points.

    Don’t know what Andy Taylor said though.

  11. Paul Kubosh says:

    ANDY TAYLOR

    Is the one that brought it to everyone’s attention. As to the Superbowl I doubt they would change the location based on this vote. Of course I could be wrong.

  12. Ross says:

    New Orleans or Miami would be thrilled to offer their facilities at short notice for a relocated Super Bowl. And I have no doubt that the NFL, with the complete agreement of many big names here in Houston, would have no qualms in moving the event.

  13. Paul kubosh says:

    Ross, I would bet you a small fortune that would never happen. That type of talk about loss of business is just like the talk I used to hear about how gay marriage would make me want to divorce my wife. (aka attack on marriage).

  14. PDiddie says:

    The petition to move the Super Bowl was covered by Doug Miller on KHOU last night. Video if you prefer. Some unnamed blogger started it.

  15. Jules says:

    So I guess if HERO isn’t repealed, there will be another lawsuit about the ballot language. This will never be over.

    I think some business will make decisions based on HERO, especially since it is a national topic.

  16. Paul kubosh says:

    Yep thats my take on the ballot language. As to the business I guess we will truly never know. I would just assume that businesses go wherever they get the best deal. Of course I freely admit I am speculating.

  17. voter_worker says:

    I think we will know, and soon, the business position on this issue. This type of ballot measure in the age of social media is local only in the sense that only locals may participate in the vote. All the rest is national, and we’ll quickly see both sides mobilizing on a national and perhaps even international scale. Plum events like the Super Bowl can quickly become chess pieces in the game, especially if the time frame doesn’t preclude a change. The Indiana experience is still fresh in people’s memories and it won’t surprise me if that episode foreshadows how this will play out.

  18. Jules says:

    looks like they already filed suit

  19. Bill Kelly says:

    So what’s the over under on District C supporting HERO? 75-80%? Oh, and Mr. Hochman, please do not refer to “the mentally ill;” they are people experiencing a mental health disorder. Thanks.

  20. Jason Hochman says:

    Thanks, Bill. Noted. It is now not a mental illness but rather the experience of a mental health disorder.

    I support a socially just society for all, and oppose discrimination against any.