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Houston Stonewall Young Democrats

Mayor Parker releases draft of non-discrimination ordinance

From the inbox:

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker today released a draft of her proposed Equal Rights Ordinance. The document is the result of more than two months of collaborative discussions with various stakeholders.

“As I stated in my State of the City Address earlier this month, the Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” said Mayor Parker. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or who you choose to love. It’s time the laws on our books reflect this.”

Houston is currently the only major city in the country without civil rights protections for its residents. The draft ordinance will prohibit discrimination in city employment, city contracting, housing, public accommodations and private employment at businesses with at least 50 employees. To avoid First Amendment issues, religious organizations are exempt from the definition of an employer.

Complaints about violations of the ordinance and decisions regarding prosecution are to be handled by the City’s Office of Inspector General and the City Attorney. If the subject of a complaint refuses to cooperate with an investigation, the City Attorney may ask City Council to approve the issuance of a subpoena to compel cooperation.

In addition, the mayor has the discretion to create an advisory task force to study and report on matters related to the ordinance.

“Equal protection under law is a cornerstone of our democracy and the Equal Rights Ordinance will help to ensure that all Houstonians are protected from discrimination,” said District C City Council Member Ellen Cohen, who has been involved in the drafting of the ordinance. “As the most diverse city in the nation, I’m pleased that we will offer these protections in public accommodations and employment to all our citizens.”

“This ordinance gives us another tool to demonstrate that Houston is a world class city that is open for business,” said District J City Council Member Mike Laster, who has also played an integral role in the drafting of the ordinance. “If you are willing to work hard, and treat your neighbors with respect and fairness, you will be welcome in Houston, and you will succeed in Houston!”

Mayor Parker intends to present the draft ordinance to City Council’s Quality of Life Committee on April 30. Consideration by the full City Council is scheduled for May 7. The ordinance may be viewed by clicking the Ordinance Feedback icon under the mayor’s photo on the homepage of the city’s website at www.houstontx.gov.

See here and here for the background. A direct link to the ordinance is here, and if you’re wondering why we need such a thing in Houston, I recommend you read this Equal Rights Ordinance Guide helpfully put together by the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats. As we know there had been some concern about private employers not being included in the ordinance, but as you can see that has been addressed. Nothing like a little public engagement on an important issue.

The Chron story gives us a feel for the lay of the land.

Parker initially had talked of creating a human rights commission to hear complaints, but that idea was left out of the proposal announced Monday.

[…]

Greater Houston Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey said his group’s key concern with the idea had been the commission.

“At this juncture, admittedly upon a very quick review, I would say there is plenty in this proposal that we can support,” Harvey said, noting that a majority of GHP members already have anti-discrimination policies. “We now must take the time to review the proposal in detail, and we plan to take it before our board for discussion in the next several days.”

The Houston GLBT Caucus, during last fall’s elections, asked the mayor whether she would introduce, and council members whether they would support, a nondiscrimination ordinance; Parker and 11 council members said yes. Caucus President Maverick Welsh said he is pleased private employers were included.

“She kept her commitment to the GLBT community and I’m hoping the council members that made a commitment will keep theirs, too,” Welsh said. “Houston is competing with other cities for the best and brightest talent out there and if Houston has these protections in place we’re more competitive and welcoming.”

Councilman Michael Kubosh said he is concerned Parker is stressing the ordinance’s sweep when her goal is adding protections for gay and transgender residents. If accurate, he said, that is where discussions should focus.

“The mayor needs to come out and just say what it’s really about. Let’s start from there and go on,” Kubosh said. “The most important thing is transparency.”

Councilman Jack Christie said the draft’s dropping of a commission makes it an improvement over earlier discussions.

“Just have direct access to the city attorney, if the state and federal hasn’t helped you,” Christie said. “I just don’t hear that much discrimination, but if there is, if there’s less than 1 percent, we need to stop that.”

There was a quote in there from one of the usual suspects that can be summed up as “haters gonna hate”, but beyond that I find these reactions to be encouraging, and boding well for passage. Still, I am sure there will be more opposition now that this is out, and I’m sure some members of Council will need a bit of pushing, so don’t quit engaging just yet. Just remember, when the predictions of doom and employers fleeing and whatever else begin to crop up, plenty of other cities in Texas and elsewhere have passed ordinances like this one, and last I checked the earth was still rotating on its axis. Nothing bad will happen, but a lot of good will. Texas Leftist, Lone Star Q, Texpatriate, TransGriot, and PDiddie have more.

Ben Hall comes out against LGBT rights

I can honestly say I’m not surprised by this.

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Mayoral candidate Ben Hall spoke to KUHF this morning and (finally) spoke publicly regarding issues of equality for the LGBT community. Hall not only came out staunchly against introducing and implementing a non-discrimination ordinance in Houston, but also in repealing the Executive Order 150.

Unfortunately for Hall, he had previously sent in the municipal candidate questionnaire to the Harris County Democratic Party in which he answered he would support a non-discrimination ordinance for all Houstonians, including those in the LGBT community.

“If we can’t trust Ben Hall to decide where he stands on issues of fairness and equality on the campaign trail, how can we trust him to make the hard decisions as the Mayor of Houston?” Brad Pritchett, President of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said. “Hall’s inability to take a principled stand on a basic Democratic issue just underscores why Mayor Annise Parker is the right choice for the City of Houston.”

Hall neglected to sit down with both the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats and the Houston GLBT Political Caucus when the organizations were screening municipal candidates.

The audio, from the Houston Matters show, is here. The reason I can say I’m not surprised by this is because in the interview I did with Hall, I asked him (as I asked everyone) if he would support an effort to repeal the 2001 charter amendment that forbids the city from offering domestic partner benefits to its employees. His response was a flat No; if you listen closely, you can tell that I wasn’t expecting that answer. That may be because as John Coby notes, Hall had previously expressed support for a more comprehensive non-discrimination ordinance. I don’t know what prompted Hall’s reversal, but it’s unfortunate whatever the cause. Discrimination is wrong, and you would think Ben Hall would know better. Texpatriate and Texas Leftist has more.

Endorsement watch: GLBT Caucus and HSYD

We are entering the part of the election cycle where groups are making their endorsements. One of the first out of the box is the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, which held its endorsement meeting on Saturday night. Here’s their press release, sent late Monday night:

150 members of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus met on Saturday to consider endorsements in the November 5, 2013 Houston municipal races and races for Houston Independent School District and Houston Community College System.

Mayor Annise Parker and 25 other candidates attended the four-hour meeting, during which candidate qualifications, campaigns, and support of equality issues were discussed and debated at length. All eligible candidates previously completed an extensive candidate questionnaire and sat for an interview with members of the Caucus Screening Committee.

“As always, our members engaged in spirited and passionate debate over which candidates are best equipped to serve Houstonians and the GLBT community.” said Caucus President Noel Freeman. “It is a very difficult process when you have so many great candidates competing for our support.”

You can see the individual endorsements announced on their Facebook page. Here’s their slate for 2013:

Mayor – Annise Parker (I)
Controller – Ronald Green (I)
At Large #1 – Stephen Costello (I)
At Large #2 – David Robinson
At Large #3 – Jenifer Pool
At Large #4 – C.O. Bradford (I)
At Large #5 – Jack Christie (I)
District A – No endorsement
District B – Jerry Davis (I)
District C – Ellen Cohen (I)
District D – Assata Richards
District E – No endorsement
District F – No endorsement
District G – No endorsement
District H – Ed Gonzalez (I)
District I – Graci Garces
District J – Mike Laster (I)
District K – Larry Green (I)
HISD District 1 – Anna Eastman (I)
HCC District I – Zeph Capo7

Note: (I) = Incumbent.

You can see a photo of their slate here. There are no major surprises on that list. Looking back to 2011, candidates in that election who did not receive the Caucus’ endorsement include Ronald Green (no endorsement in the Controller race that year); David Robinson (they endorsed Jenifer Pool on AL2); and Jack Christie (they endorsed then-incumbent CM Jolanda Jones). First-term CMs Davis, Cohen, Laster, and Larry Green were Caucus-endorsed as candidates.

On Tuesday, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats announced their endorsements, which you can see here. They mostly overlapped with the Caucus; the only instance in which HSYD made an endorsement that differed from the Caucus was in At Large #3, where HSYD went with Rogene Calvert.

Like I said, endorsement season for groups and organizations is beginning in earnest. I’ve also seen announcements this week about Democracy For Houston and the Tejano Democrats. I expect plenty of others to follow soon. I generally wait to see a press release or some kind of web announcement before I update the Endorsements list on my 2013 Election page. If you’re aware of some endorsement announcement that I’ve missed, please send me the release or link or whatever, and I’ll update appropriately. Thanks very much.

Endorsement watch: HASD and HSYD

Two more sets of endorsements, now added to the 2010 Election page, from the Houston Area Stonewall Democrats and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats. There may be other endorsing groups out there that have not checked in, but if so the clock is definitely ticking. Who knows, we may even see something from the Chron soon. Anyway, here’s HASD’s release, with the list of recommendations to follow beneath the fold as it is very long:

Houston Area Stonewall Democrats met tonight to consider endorsements in the 2010 Democratic Primary for Harris County, Texas. HASD and Democracy For Houston jointly interviewed over 110 candidates in personal interviews and panels but, each group made independent recommendation’s for its respective organization. In addition to hosting screening interviews since early January, HASD accepted written responses to the group’s questionaire. All candidates, local and statewide, were encouraged to participate in the process

Phillip McNutt, President of HASD, remarked: “Houston Area Stonewall proudly stands behind our endorsement slate. HASD did not vote to endorse in every race nor did we vote to endorse anyone simply because they asked for our vote. We have a large field of candidates to choose from. Our progressive values coupled with genuine concerns for the LGBT community, along with the candidate’s credibility and electability are reflected in our slate of endorsed candidates, from the bottom to the top of the ticket.”

Click on for the full list and for HSYD’s list as well.

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Endorsement watch: Tejano Democrats

Well, I know they endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor, because I received a press release to that effect last night, which is reproduced below. I also know that the Tejano Dems were going to endorse a full slate of candidates, but as yet I’ve not seen any further information about what happened at their meeting last night, so this is all I know. I’ll update when I hear more.

Here’s Locke’s press release:

In a close vote tonight of the Harris County Tejano Democrats, Gene Locke won a majority of the voting members.

On the heels of the endorsement by several Latino elected officials and community leaders earlier this week, Locke captured the coveted endorsement of one of the oldest grassroots Democratic clubs in Harris County.

The excitement for Locke in the Hispanic community is unsurpassed in the mayoral race. On July 18th, Locke won the campaign’s first debate, the Latino Summit Mayoral Debate, when a panel of uncommitted voters declared him the clear winner over his three opponents.

At the Tejano Democrats endorsement meeting tonight, Locke was nominated by State Senator Mario Gallegos and State Representative Carol Alvarado.

Late in the evening, a group of more then 200 Tejano Democrats cast two separate votes to endorse in the 2009 mayor’s race. Locke won the initial vote with 100 votes, Annise Parker received 98 votes and Peter Brown received seven votes. Since no candidate received a majority, a second vote was held between the top two vote getters, Locke and Parker.

In the second vote Locke picked up four votes to Parker’s two and won the endorsement by a vote of 104-100.

“I am very proud to have received the endorsement of the Tejano Democrats, an organization that fights for working people. This one was personal,” said Locke. “Tonight was a great night, it has been a great week, si se puede!”

Sounds like it was a very interesting meeting, if all of the votes were close like that. I can’t wait to see some further communications. In the meantime, I got an email last night from Brandon Webb of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats telling me that their full slate of endorsements is now online. My thanks to him for that.

UPDATE: Via email from Carl Whitmarsh to his listserv, here is the full list of endorsees:

Mayor: Gene Locke
Controller: No endorsement
At Large #1: Herman Litt
At Large #2: Sue Lovell
At Large #3: Melissa Noriega
At Large #4: C.O. Bradford
At Large#5: Jolanda Jones
District A: Lane Lewis
District B: No endorsement
District C: No endorsement
District D: Wanda Adams
District E: No endorsement
District F: Mike Laster
District G: No endorsement
District H: Ed Gonzalez
District I: James Rodriguez

According to Whitmarsh, no candidates for Controller came before the Tejano Dems screening committee, and none showed up last night to speak before the group, so no endorsement was given. Bradford won a close vote over Noel Freeman, and Litt won by one over Rick Rodriguez in a runoff.

Endorsement watch: We take it back

Here’s something you don’t see every election. The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, which had previously endorsed City Council Member Jolanda Jones for re-election to her At Large #5 seat, has now rescinded that endorsement. You can read their letter to CM Jones here (PDF), which is signed by union President Jeff Caynon, who are you know has been sparring with Jones lately. I think this is Round Three, but I could be miscounting that. The HPFFA has not endorsed anyone else in this race, at least as yet.

I couldn’t find a list of other HPFFA endorsements, but I do know that they endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor last week. Locke has racked up a fair number of endorsements lately, mostly from the builders and real estate communities. Today he got the nod from several Latino elected officials, including State Sen. Mario Gallegos, State Rep. Carol Alvarado, Constable Victor Trevino, and HISD Trustee Diana Davila.

Meanwhile, the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats had their endorsement meeting last night, and recommended the following slate:

City of Houston Controller
Ronald Green

City Council At-large 1
Karen Derr

City Council At-large 2
Sue Lovell

City Council At-large 3
Melissa Noriega

City Council At-large 4
Noel Freeman

City Council At-large 5
Jolanda Jones

City Council District A
Lane Lewis

City Council District D
Wanda Adams

Like the HGLBT Political Caucus, the HSYDs had previously endorsed Annise Parker for Mayor. A lot of organizations are doing their screenings and making their choices around now, so look for plenty more of these notices.

Finally, according to a press release I received this afternoon, the Greater Houston Builders Association, which is one of those organizations that has backed Locke, gave its endorsement in At Large #4 to C.O. Bradford. The GHBA’s political advocacy page has not been updated yet to reflect any endorsements. For that matter, neither the HPFFA nor the HSYD pages had current endorsement information up yet. May I suggest y’all get on that, like soon? Thanks.