Column: Houston residents must pass HERO legislation or condone bigotry

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)

Houston residents are anxiously awaiting a vote on a ballot referendum to decide whether the city will ensure the equal rights of residents, including LGBTQ community, or revert to anachronistic, backwards views. The “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” or HERO, is the result of Texas Supreme Court decision that made such a triumph for equality contingent on the votes of Houston residents, according an article by the Washington Post.

This legislation originally passed through the city council and became law, only to be thwarted by pastors and other religious and homophobic zealots. To allow the right to equality to be stripped from residents on the call of fundamentalists is an affront to liberty and justice; listening carefully, one can hear Thomas Paine rolling over in his grave, as these vile human beings continue to oppress the LGBTQ community and slow this nation’s progress towards the original guarantee of equality in the name of conservative Christianity.

According to the Washington Post piece, the chief complaint of opponents to the HERO initiative is the belief that transgender individuals will somehow threaten the security and safety of women and children by using bathrooms, with their presence constituting an “an invasion of a safe space for women and girls.” This is yet another instance of conservative religionists insisting that transgender individuals are somehow threatening. These views are backwards, fundamentally incorrect and have no place in a modern political debate. 

Activists holding signs reading “No men in women’s bathrooms” only provide evidence of their own ignorance and bigotry, while continuing to reveal the opposition to LGBTQ equality as nothing more than a collection of asinine clowns who have neither the foresight nor the intellect to understand the source of their own unfounded and perverse fear. 

The opponents of the measure have, according to supporters, focused solely on the LGBTQ aspects of the HERO measure as means placing blinders on the voting populace. The Washington Post quoted supporters of HERO as arguing “the ordinance would not only protect the rights of transgender people, but also challenge discrimination on the basis of race, sex and a dozen other factors, including military status.” By igniting the bigotry of voters, the opposition to this needed legislation has burned over Houston, potentially laying waste to any semblance of progress. 

Mayor Annise Parker, herself a “longtime lesbian activist” argued that the same antagonism she faced in advocating for gay rights and equality has surfaced in opposition to the transgender community. Houston pastors and zealots have successfully turned legislation that called for the equality of all residents, barring discrimination based on a variety of prejudices and bigotries, into a political spectacle. Their poisonous rhetoric has transformed the right to equality of the LGBTQ community into a perceived affront to their religious rights and safety. 

This line of thinking is a familiar sight in the conservative Christian political sphere. In July, failed presidential candidate Scott Walker (R-WI) launched a tirade against the Boy Scouts of America’s decision to allow openly gay troop leaders. According to a piece in the Washington Post, Walker argued that barring openly gay troop leaders “protected children and advanced Scout values.” The BSA promises a program for “young people [which] builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship, and develops personal fitness.” Nothing in that statement suggests that the leadership of an openly gay troop leader is contrary to the BSA message and “values” as Walker ineloquently put it. 

Like the bigots in Houston, Walker simultaneously pandered to the fringe of the Christian-conservative coalition, while affirming his own homophobia, belief that not all people are equal and overall poor grasp of American values. Whether in Houston, or in the race for the White House, Americans cannot continue to permit such open hatred and discrimination. Finding arbitrary excuses, such as threatened “values” or a fear of bathroom privacy, only provide evidence of this dying coalition’s efforts to grasp fear-mongering tactics. 

George Washington wrote, in a 1790 letter to the Jewish community in Newport, Rhode Island, that the United States Government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, [and] requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.” These values are core to this nation. Though communities have been subject to extreme bigotry and persecution in America, history has always shone favorably on those fighting for the equality of the oppressed and demonized. To vote against HERO in Houston is to be party to bigotry and persecution, and the oppression of one’s fellow man. 


Christopher Sacco is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.sacco@uconn.edu.