Houston has a long and checkered history with nondiscrimination protections. Many people feel like the HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) fight was a stand-alone moment in our city's journey for equality, but in reality it was merely another step forward (and backwards) for Houston.
In 1984 Houston City Council member Anthony Hall sponsored the city's first ordinance banning anti-gay discrimination, which was passed by Houston City Council. After passage anti-LGBTQ activists worked to place the ordinance on the ballot for a public vote and it was defeated by a margin of 4 to 1.
In 2001, the Houston City Council was scheduled to begin discussions about providing domestic partner benefits to city employees. Anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Wilson began to preemptively gather signatures to place the question of domestic partner benefits on the ballot. In response, Mayor Lee Brown abandoned domestic partner benefits in favor a nondiscrimination ordinance.
Wilson gathered enough signatures to place both the nondiscrimination law and domestic partner benefits on the November ballot. Houston voters defeated the nondiscrimination ordinance and altered the city's charter to ban domestic partner benefits.
Which brings us to 2014 and the Houston City Council taking up the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). As you probably know anti-LGBTQ activists gathered signatures once again, the ordinance was placed on the ballot and it was defeated by voters.
There is a common theme running through each of these fights for nondiscrimination.
These laws were crafted without ever taking into consideration input from voters here in Houston. By the time it was necessary to start having conversations about why we need nondiscrimination laws, it was too late.
It's time for that to change - and that's what Transform Houston is working to do.
We don't know when a new nondiscrimination law might be reconsidered here in Houston, but we know that some day it will happen again.
Our mission is to ensure that the next fight for nondiscrimination is Houston's last fight for a very, very long time and whatever law is passed, is upheld at the polls by voters.
You can join Transform Houston and help lead these important conversations with voters.