Equal Rights Ordinance

May. 29, 2014Houston Public Media

A thunderous applause greeted Houston City Council, after it approved the controversial measure by a vote of 11-6. The measure consolidates bans on discrimination based on age, sex, race and religion, and also increases protection for gay and transgender residents. Only a handful of the more than 200 people who voiced their opinion during a public session that lasted more than 7-hours, were against the ordinance. Marilyn Vrana told council that equal rights already protects everyone:

“This proposed ordinance has caused outrage, confusion, fear and anxiety for women and children. It will cause great expense and bring division to Houstonians. It breaks my heart to see so many people deceived, and lied to about who they really are.”

But supporters of the measure included organizations like the Greater Houston Partnership. Bob Harvey is president and CEO:

Harvey : “Houston is a very diverse and welcoming community, that image allows us to attract talent and investment, but we’re not without our faults. Thus the need for a clear statement that in Houston, businesses cannot and do not discriminate.”

Annise Parker : “Councilmember Bradford.”

Councilmember Clarence Bradford : “Thank you Mayor. Mr. Harvey, how did the Partnership reach its decision, because I’ve had members of the Partnership contact me and say that there was no vote, there was no deliberations. So how was that decision reached?”

Harvey : “We of course as a staff, researched this over a period of months. We brought it to our board, then to our executive committee, back to our board, and finally again to our executive committee, which is about 40 individuals, voted in support of the ordinance.”

Brenda Stardig was one of six councilmembers who did not support the measure:

“It’s really hard to get the word out in a timely fashion, and that’s my concern. So a process, and the fact that we’re not really set up to do that here at city hall. I think that there’s a place for this, other than city hall in the city of Houston. But I’m sure they’ll be pushed back, and there’ll be others that will be coming back with a referendum and positions and will be an ongoing conversation.”

Annise Parker, the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city, says while she is proud of the many significant accomplishments leading the fourth largest city in the country:

“It is the most personally satisfying and most personally meaningful thing that I will do as mayor.”

Houston becomes the last big city in Texas to adopt such an ordinance.