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Houston Unites

The pro-HERO campaign has been launched.

Supporters of Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance launched a formal campaign Wednesday urging voters to defend the measure this November.

ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke urged Houstonians to “send a message that this is a city that doesn’t discriminate.” Businessman Bobby Singh, invoking the threat of losing sporting events and conventions if the law is repealed, added, “Let’s send a strong message to people across the country and across the world that Houston is open for business.”


Foes have seized on the protections the ordinance extends to transgender residents, specifically the perceived threat of transgender women — people who were born male but identify as female — using women’s restrooms and locker rooms. They allege “transvestite men” may enter women’s facilities and commit sexual assaults.

Opponents also accuse Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly gay mayor of a major American city, of seeking to “criminalize faith” by forcing “individuals, families, churches, schools and businesses to accept, affirm and celebrate the LGBT agenda.”

Supporters on Wednesday indicated they will address both sets of allegations head-on.

Sonia Corrales, chief program officer at the Houston Area Women’s Center, said the majority of women and more than 90 percent of children are assaulted by someone known to them, and that similar nondiscrimination laws have been passed in 17 states and 200 cities without accompanying public safety concerns.

“It is a disservice to the public to continue to perpetuate myths about how and why sexual assault happens,” she said. “Nothing in HERO changes the fact that it is illegal to enter a restroom to harm or harass people or invade their privacy.”

Leslie Jackson, a minister at Cathedral of Hope, also decried the “voices of division” who “confuse religious freedom with the freedom to discriminate.”

“Religious faith does not undermine the value of equality for all under the law,” he said. “Religious faith demands it.”

Here’s their website, and here’s their Facebook page. I’ve said my piece about how I’d go about this, so I look forward to seeing how this goes. In the meantime, this is a team effort, so visit both pages and see what you can do to help. No bystanders allowed.

Addressing the bathroom question is certainly going to be important, because bathroom hysteria is going to be a central part of the repeal campaign. Sadly, I don’t know how useful facts will be, which is why I took a more indirect approach. Still, it’s important to emphasize how dishonest the claims being made about bathrooms by repeal proponents are. I’ve quoted Daniel Davies before, and this is as good a time as ever to bring his sage words back up: Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

And look, regardless of the efficacy of any particular campaign tactic, I can’t overstate how much the repeal effort is based on vicious lies against people who live, work, go to school, and pay taxes here in Houston. Our neighbors, to put it another way. Most of the people who are leading the repeal effort call themselves devout Christians. I’m not a devout Christian – I don’t go to church, I don’t feel faith the way many people do – but I did grow up in a strongly Catholic family, and however un-devout I am now the teachings I learned as a child are still very much a part of who I am. If there’s one thing I know from those teachings I got as a child, it’s that there’s nothing remotely Christ-like about telling vicious, hateful lies about one’s neighbor. I don’t know what motivates someone who calls himself or herself a devout Christian to do such a thing. I was taught to love my neighbor. I have no idea how anyone could think this kind of behavior is loving. I’m glad that religious leaders will be part of the pro-HERO campaign. It’s important to convey the message that being religious is entirely compatible with supporting equality for all. I just hope that message can get out there as well.

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  1. Steven Houston says:

    MB: “It is funny that someone who is so anti-illegal talks about painting with a broad brush, that would be you Steven Houston.”

    Answer: To truly be said to “paint with a broad brush”, I’ve have to make sweeping statements about Latinos and other groups in general, which I do not. People illegally immigrate from a number of places and take advantage of programs designed for those that belong here. Follow the rules coming to this country, whether it is from Norway, Canada, Japan, or even Mexico, and I’ll be supportive of your efforts to live the American Dream, even if you are “short, fat, and ugly”. But you can backtrack all you like, your constant gay bashing and insinuations are offensive, much like telling them to “hide” who they are or suggest they have a choice in what trips their trigger would fit right in with the types that wouldn’t piss on you were you on fire because they would “know” you’re a Mexican (even though you aren’t).

    Regular, decent people shouldn’t have to “hide” who they are to accommodate someone whose mind is stuck in the past. As Charles and others might tell you, I’m not even particularly progressive and I see it. Some of the older folks out there who weren’t allowed to use the bulk of bathrooms designated “For Whites Only” or even water faucets, might want to rethink their stance too, any needed changes with HERO should problems arise can be made rather than throw out the baby with the bathwater over some example that has yet to occur in this country.