HERO 2.0

I’ve been waiting for this, though in reading this story I’d argue we should wait just a little bit more.

Houston’s two mayoral candidates say they support expanded anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community, but would leave it to voters to pursue a revived version of the measure that was roundly defeated at the ballot box four years ago.

Outside groups, meanwhile, already are readying for a redux of the high-profile and vitriolic fight over the so-called HERO measure.

Mayor Sylvester Turner supported the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in 2015 but has not advocated for revisiting it during his first term. On Tuesday, he acknowledged that “community-driven efforts are underway” and that he is working with his LGBTQ advisory board to find “opportunities to do more public education,” though he did not say he would advocate for a ballot measure in 2021.

He previously has said that groups need to focus on outreach and grass-roots campaigning.

“It’s important to educate people, because if you put something up, let’s say right now, and it goes down again, it just sets us back,” Turner said in August. “So, let’s educate, let’s continue to work with the LGBTQ Advisory Committee which I put in place, and let’s work with other organizations, and then we can move forward.”


Harrison Guy, chair of the mayor’s LGBTQ advisory board, said the 2015 defeat forced advocates to overhaul their approach to organizing, particularly in a city as diverse and geographically spread-out as Houston.

“It was a pretty big mountain to climb when we were honest about why HERO wasn’t a success,” he said Tuesday.

Since then, he said, groups have focused on in-person outreach to “soften hearts,” and readied for a potential, 2021 rematch.

“It’s tedious, slow and strategic, which isn’t sexy,” Guy said.

He said he is fine with Turner taking a backseat on the issue.

“The fight cannot belong to one group or one person,” Guy said. “It can’t belong to the mayor. The coalition needs to be really broad and really big.”

[Former Mayor Annise] Parker agreed with the grass-roots tactic, but warned that “if the mayor doesn’t want it to move, it’s not going to move.”

Tony Buzbee was quoted in the story saying he supported a watered-down HERO that would “[prohibit] discrimination by employers and housing providers, but would oppose expanding the measure to apply to places of public accommodation, including public restrooms”. Of course, he has also said that he would support a HERO that included public accommodation, and he has promised Steve Hotze that he would oppose any effort to pass a new HERO, so you can’t believe a word he says.

As I said, I have been waiting for this, I fully support this, and I agree that this is the right approach to trying again. My one hesitation is in putting HERO 2.0 on the 2021 ballot. There are no city elections in 2021, just HISD and HCC Trustee races, and who even knows how much anyone will care about the HISD races at that time. That means that basically all of the turnout for such an election will come from the campaigns for this measure, and we saw what happened with that in 2015. My suggestion would be to wait and have it in 2022, when at least the baseline will be higher, overall more Democratic, and will include more young voters. It’s true that plenty of Democratic voters voted to repeal HERO in 2015, but that’s a problem that the new outreach strategy needs to solve. If that hasn’t been successful then we could hold the vote on a Sunday afternoon in July and it won’t make any difference. Engage with the Democratic base, move the needle with voters who should be on our side since they very much support politicians who support what’s in HERO, and then schedule the election at a time when many of these people would be voting anyway.

(You may ask “why not go all the way turnout-wise and do it in 2020?” One, that may not be enough time for the engagement project to work, and two, the 2020 election is not two full years after the 2018 election, when Prop B passed, so by charter it’s too soon. Right idea, but not feasible under the conditions we have.)

Anyway. I’ll want to know a lot more about the engagement strategy – who the public faces of it are, what the funding model is, what the message will be, etc etc etc – but it’s a step in the right direction. And whether we do this in 2021 or wait till 2022 as I would prefer, there’s no time to lose. Campos has more.

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8 Responses to HERO 2.0

  1. I believe that Governor Abbott will be up for re-election in 2022. If Dems have a very strong candidate that could get Democratic voters in Harris County to the polls which could assist HERO2. Once HERO 2 passes the next step would be to ensure that the state does not negate it as they have done with environmental laws passed in Austin. Bonnen made clear the antipathy Republicans in the legislature feel towards the cities. Finally…state legislators could put forth a bill to protect all citizens from discrimination which actually makes it out of committee and onto the floor for a vote. That could also help the cause.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    The problem with a HERO 2 will be the same problem the original HERO had. The solid Democrat base, blacks and Hispanics, especially the church going ones, just aren’t down with the GLBT agenda, especially now that it has focused itself on transgenders. They vote for Dem candidates that are pro GBLT because they otherwise support Democrat issues, but if given the chance to break out, to vote on the single issue, they will do just what they did last time….sink the HERO.

    I don’t think this is likely to change, no matter how much outreach is done in those communities. You’re not going to change the minds of black ministers and Catholic priests in the barrio, and their parishioners aren’t just going to attend church on Sunday and then turn around and vote for a HERO on Tuesday.

    I could be wrong, but I just don’t see it. It won’t be white folks from Kingwood and Clear Lake sinking a new HERO, it will be folks from Sunnyside, Acres Homes, South Park, and Denver Harbor.

  3. Tom in Lazybrook says:

    The average age in the HERO referendum election was in the late 60s. I think the proper thing is to hold it in November 2022, when the average age of the voters will be lower.

    People read too much into that vote. Hold the election at a time of high turnout, and equality wins.

  4. Mainstream says:

    In my view the wiser strategy for any future nondiscrimination ordinances would be to break it into subsections, employment, housing, public access, etc. with the result that it would expose the true beliefs of opponents, who in fact oppose glbt employment and housing protections, but always argue that they simply oppose men threatening young girls in women’s restrooms. Once the issue is more focused on housing, for example, you will start to hear new complaints about government overregulation, religious freedom, etc.

  5. Manny says:

    agree with tom and mainstream

  6. Sue says:

    Bill Daniels is absolutely correct in his assessment. I pushed cards during Early Voting at Moody Park against HERO. It was the Black and Hispanic voters who were quite favorable to my cards. Many told me they were there to vote against “men in ladies’ bathrooms” (so Hotze’s ads had a definite impact). The white voters who showed up were not as predictable, many were supportive of the ordinance. In a Democrat city, that proposition was defeated 61% to 39% and it was defeated by an unlikely coalition of voters from both parties. That’s not going to change.

  7. C.L. says:

    Shame on you, Sue, for pushing an agenda that had little to no basis in fact or incident.

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    We don’t need any bathroom bills from either party

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