Update On City Of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance

Apr. 30, 2014Houston Public Media

The ordinance is a sweeping anti-discrimination proposal that targets private businesses as well as city employment and contracting.

City Attorney David Feldman told the council’s Quality of Life committee that Houston is the only one of the country’s ten largest cities without an ordinance that protects people, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

“It is one of a handful of the largest 50 in the country that does not have an ordinance prohibiting discrimination and the use of public accommodations.”

Violators could be fined up to $5,000.

Feldman says he’s been busy revising the ordinance that previous mayors have had a hand in crafting.

“So for all those people out there, who for the past years since Annise Parker has been mayor, who have been saying that somehow she has created this bugaboo situation with restroom facilities, because people cannot be discriminated against in the use of those facilities based on their gender identity. Guess what? It was Lee Brown in 2001, who introduced and got that ordinance adopted in the City of Houston.”

Every seat inside council chambers was filled with people for and against Mayor Parker’s proposal. Kendall Baker with the Houston Area Pastor’s Council says there are laws that already provide protection.

“I would say to leave well enough alone. That federal and the state laws should suffice. What we have in place. There’s no evidence of discrimination. There’s no emergency in Houston.There are no significant cases of where people were turned away or moved out. Things are smooth. And so, I think this administration wants to leave a legacy. This is her last term, and it’s unnecessary at this time.”

But Travis Sheive with the group Texans Together says discrimination must be prevented at all costs.

“The people who are against this ordinance say that it’s a solution in search of a problem that discrimination doesn’t exist in Houston. But two weeks ago, a black couple was stopped in a store and strip searched because they thought they had stolen from them. Six months, ago a sign in west Houston appeared that said, ‘No Muslim Parking.’ If you show me someone who doesn’t think that’s discrimination, I can show you someone who needs a dictionary.”

It’s expected that the measure will be put before the full council for a vote next week.