The animus that drives HERO opposition

I have often spoken of my contempt for the leaders of the HERO opposition, for their lying and their willingness to demonize their fellow man. There are a number of people who deserve that scorn, but this guy belongs up at the top.

When conservative firebrand Dr. Steven Hotze unsheathed a sword in August while speaking at a conservative rally that doubled as a campaign launch against Houston’s nondiscrimination ordinance, even some politically aligned with the longtime anti-gay activist were taken aback.

In an incendiary, lengthy address, Hotze went on to link America’s war against Nazi Germany to the war on gay rights, urging all gay Houstonians to flee to San Francisco. The sword, he said, was meant to represent God’s word, the strongest weapon against the gay community.

“The homosexuals are hate-mongers,” Hotze said at the time. “They hate God, they hate God’s word, they hate Christ, they hate anything that’s good and wholesome and right. They want to pervert everything.”

But since the speech, which played out on Twitter and drew media attention, Hotze largely has dulled his rhetoric against gay rights, at least when it comes to the equal rights ordinance now before voters. Instead, Hotze quietly has bankrolled opponents and stuck to the campaign’s biggest talking point: that the law would allow men, including sexual predators, into women’s restrooms.

This message is notable for its stridency and for what ordinance supporters say is its fear-mongering inaccuracy, but also because it shunts aside Hotze’s decades-long war against gays and lesbians. The campaign instead aims only at transgender residents, and in particular transgender women, who were born male but identify as female.

Evidence suggests the strategy is a politically savvy one.

Despite recent social and legal victories for gays and lesbians – from growing public acceptance to earning the right last June to marry in any state – research and polling data show transgender residents are starting from nearly scratch. Supporters say that makes the protections extended to transgender residents under the law even more crucial.

“Transgender people are at least 20 years behind the larger gay and lesbian community in terms of public understanding and acceptance,” said Michael Silverman, director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. “The vast majority of Americans still report that they do not know anyone who is openly transgender. That lack of knowledge and lack of acceptance creates a gap that our opponents attempt to fill with misleading information designed to scare people.”


Opponents’ targeted approach is the one they must take, said ACLU of Texas director Terri Burke, having been forced by growing acceptance to abandon anti-gay rhetoric.

That Hotze has been relatively muted on the issue of sexual orientation in recent months is in stark contrast to his approach when City Council passed the law 11-6 last year. While opponents were gathering thousands of signatures in an effort to force a repeal referendum, Hotze emailed conservative Steven Baer and cast the law as part of a “tide of homosexual perversion sweeping over the country,” according to emails obtained by the Chronicle.

Hotze, through Woodfill, declined to be interviewed for this story.

“Let’s collaborate and join forces. Houston, Texas is ground zero on this issue,” he wrote. “We will repeal the pro-homosexual ordinance here and breath fire into the hearts of our brethren across Texas and the nation.”

See also this story, which looks at this from the perspective of being transgender. People who oppose HERO have a variety of reasons for doing so. I don’t find any of those reasons meritorious, but some of them are more respectable than others. But whatever one’s reason may be for opposing HERO, this is what the rest of the country will hear and internalize if HERO is defeated. I don’t know about you, but if I opposed HERO for some technical reason that had nothing to do with Steve Hotze’s seething hatred, the fact that I was nonetheless on the same side as Steve Hotze would make me awfully uncomfortable. You may say that it’s not fair for you and your reasonable objections to HERO to be lumped with a raving maniac like Hotze. Well, last I checked life wasn’t fair, and so unless you’re out there publicly denouncing the likes of Hotze and his hate, how is anyone who doesn’t know you to tell the difference? I guarantee you, there are only two possible post-referendum narratives that will appear in the media. One is that Houston beat back an effort to repeal its equal rights ordinance. The other is that anti-gay groups prevailed in their effort to repeal said ordinance, with the likes of Hotze and Jared Woodfill and Dave Wilson out there in the spotlight getting the attention and becoming for at least a little while the public face of our town. If you don’t like that idea, then the one thing you can do about it is not be on their side when you go vote. Because if you are on their side when you vote, your own reasons for doing so won’t matter. No one’s going to hear you when you try to explain.

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17 Responses to The animus that drives HERO opposition

  1. Katy Anders says:

    This is a great article, and you said everything I would if I was better at discussing politics.

    Dr. Hotze and everyone else are currently focusing on transgender people in the bathrooms. But I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to assume that, should HERO lose, everyone will be universalizing the defeat as a rebuke of out-of-control LGBT activism.

    It would be embarrassing, though, if they managed to defeat it on such an insincere and bunk basis.

  2. voter_worker says:

    I’d say that a hefty portion of the animus is directed personally at Mayor Parker. Her administration had the temerity to propose this and get it passed by Council, then to hold the petition drive to the gold standard, to subpoena sermons as part of the lawsuit discovery process, and more. A victory for the no side will be a victory over the Mayor, and therein will lie their satisfaction. Defeat, on the other hand, might be especially bitter.

  3. Bill Kelly says:

    100% with Kuff. I assume that “voter_worker” means that the “gold standard” means “legal.” Fraud is fraud is fraud, and the petitions were full of fraud. Standing up for the rule of law isn’t the gold standard, it is the legal one.

  4. voter_worker says:

    @ Bill Kelly, yes, that’s exactly what I meant. It will be difficult to apply to future petition verifications, I’m afraid, thanks to the Texas Supreme Court.

  5. Brad Moore says:

    I wonder what restroom facility Hotze would want this beautiful child to use?

  6. Jason says:

    I accept that some people are born with same sex attraction but at what point does it end? Cross dressing is simply bizarre and if that makes me a hater then so be it. But I feel to lump them in with gay and lesbians is an insincere attempt to legitimize their behavior. Maybe I along with others will evolve as president Obama did but for the moment many feel like I do.

  7. J says:

    I think there is too much strong rhetoric being spread, too broadly directed. Very sharp accusations, threats of what your no vote will do to Houston’s image, saying that you have to get out there and denounce Hotze…

    There are lots of people like Jason who just don’t “get” the whole transgender thing. Sure, Hotze is a hater. But I don’t think Jason is. He just isn’t ready. And the same is true of lots of old people, like my parents. They think Caitlyn Jenner is weird and strange and why does the government want to use all of its power to force her into their bathroom. (And I have tried to talk reason to them; so you want her in the male bathroom?)

    Think of Obama back, what, 3 years ago? Did we hate, hate, hate him because he was against gay marriage? HE WAS EFFING AGAINST GAY MARRIAGE!!!! Was he being a hater? Or is being a cowardly hypocrite worse? Or did he just think (wrongly or rightly) that it was too early to push gay marriage? Was he was confused, reluctant, didn’t want to offend a large percentage of the populace? I don’t recall Kuffner putting up posts equating Obama with Hotze back in 2012….

    I think HERO would almost certainly be adopted in this election, if it only extended to gay people and hadn’t kicked off with 2 pages specifically about nothing but trans people in bathrooms. The transgender thing is too much, too soon, for more than a majority, I think, for it to be able to pass. I am sorry to the couple of transgender people I know. I am sorry that a majority are like Obama circa 2012. I’ll vote for it, but while I will condemn Hotze for being a hater, I won’t condemn all the people who are voting No because they just aren’t ready yet.

  8. Bill Daniels says:

    “…. if I opposed HERO for some technical reason that had nothing to do with Steve Hotze’s seething hatred, the fact that I was nonetheless on the same side as Steve Hotze would make me awfully uncomfortable…..”

    I’m sure the US was uncomfortable being on the same side of the Russian communists in WWII. “Politics makes for strange bedfellows.”

  9. Robbie Westmoreland says:

    “I think HERO would almost certainly be adopted in this election, if it only extended to gay people and hadn’t kicked off with 2 pages specifically about nothing but trans people in bathrooms.”

    Here’s the ordinance as adopted:

    I confess to being unable to find the kick-off point that you mention, but perhaps I’m numbed to football metaphors after watching the Texans-Dolphins game. Could you cite to the two pages you mention that are about nothing but trans people in bathrooms?

  10. J says:

    Robbie — By “kicked off”, I meant that a bathroom provision was in the first draft that was presented by the Mayor to City Council for adoption. As I recall, those two pages triggered much of the uproar. They were removed by the Mayor after it seemed very possible that HERO might be rejected by City Council, although I don’t have a clear enough recollection of how that head counting might have gone (3 moving from yes to no would have defeated it). The Mayor was quoted as saying something like “removing it has no effect; the general provisions will still mean trans people can use the bathroom that they want”. By that, she meant the inclusion of “gender identity” and its definition. To be clear, I think gender identity alone would have set off objections, perhaps just as strong, but the bathroom provisions were very much an “in your face” demonstration of what was being pushed there. And perhaps they gave the opponents their strategy.

  11. voter_worker says:

    Transgender has been in the public eye at least since 1951, when George Jorgensen transitioned to Christine Jorgensen. One can choose to become educated on the subject, or choose to remain ignorant. My conviction that people own their own body has saved me an enormous amount of mental anguish I might have otherwise foolishly spent on things that are none of my business. I really don’t need to “understand” it (not that I could anyway) to recognize that non-coercive, non-violent transgender people have inherent standing to take action on their situation with or without my approval and/or understanding. If I am presented with an opportunity to vote to make their path through life a little easier, I will (and have).

  12. J says:

    See, voter_worker, the difference between us is that I am trying to understand where other people are coming from, even in their “ignorance”, and I notice that what is commonly accepted in society evolves over time, often more slowly than some people would like.

    But I am very happy for you that you are so blessed with moral superiority over a huge percentage of the population that you get to sprinkle your posts with phrases like “choose to become educated” and “otherwise foolishly spent” and imply that you have been perfectly enlightened as to transgender folk since at least 1951. So wonderful to be you.

  13. voter_worker says:

    Sorry for the butthurt, J, but if a phenomenon has been around your whole lifetime and is a public issue you care about, why not learn something about it? It’s got nothing to do with “moral superiority”, it’s something you can consciously do to broaden your horizons and try to make sense of a crazy world. I used to be anti GMO and now I’m not, because evidence. It’s not rocket science.

  14. M@ says:

    I have a close relative who is trans male. Does anyone here really want him in the ladies room with his sideburns and tattoos? Believe me, public order and tranquility is best served by according our trans folks the dignity of letting them choose the bathroom that fits their identity. Also, raise your hand if you think it’s easy to be born in the wrong skin. Or is there some compelling reason to humiliate them over this bathroom issue?

  15. M@ says:

    Brad Moore, thanks for the video. Story looked awfully familiar.

  16. Sandi says:

    I echo the sentiments expressed by several here. As a HERO supporter, and one who would have supported it even with the withdrawn language, I won’t be blaming my fellow voters if it fails, I’ll be blaming the elected officials who botched the roll out. The bathroom language was removed at the request of the LGBT community … why were they savvy enough to realize that would be the sticking point when life-long politicians were not? As a woman who would have benefited from the protections of HERO, it makes me frankly angry to see such incompetence in people I voted for. Where was the education? Where was the outreach? Where were the grass roots efforts towards other groups besides LGBT? This is a prime aggravation of being a liberal democrat. Seeing your politicians assume time after time that the purity of their intent is so obvious they can’t lose. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about effectiveness. Yes, the other side are haters, and they’re going to be able to motivate a lot of people with that hate. So build enough good will before you release the bill, and don’t build them free ammo into it.

  17. JesusAMorones says:

    The lies and exaggerations the opposition (conservative Christian fanatics) are stating in their ads are astounding and disgusting. And they wonder why the number of church going Christians in the USA is declining year after year. They might succeed with having the ordinance defeated, but they will lose more sheep in their flock because of their dramatics and lies. They ran me off several years ago. Their dishonesty and hypocrisy will be their doom inthe long run.
    It’s been happening for years. Because of their self righteousness they refuse to see it.

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