Mayor Parker gave her speech to a crowd of about 1,600 members and guests of the Greater Houston Partnership.
Parker spent most of her time reflecting on successes of the past four years, and saved her policy announcements for the end of her speech.
She says Houston is the only major city in the United States that does not have some sort of anti-discrimination policy.
“A young African-American man should not be turned away from a club on Washington Avenue. A returning veteran with a service dog should not be denied service at a local restaurant. An older woman should not be denied a job on a city contract. And yet these things do happen in the friendliest, most welcoming, most diverse city in the United States. And yes, a gay or transgendered individual should have the same rights enjoyed by all other Houstonians.”
Parker says all of these examples are real ones that have taken place in the past few years.
Her proposal will add protections for homosexual and transgender people and will prohibit local businesses from refusing service to any of the protected groups in the ordinance.
“If you offer a public service, in a facility to which the public is invited, you can’t discriminate.”
A seven-person Human Rights Commission will be created to hear complaints and refer serious violations to the proper authorities, which could include misdemeanor charges and fines.
Local conservative groups like the Houston Area Pastor Council are already urging the mayor to withdraw her proposal and asking local business leaders to oppose the plan.