Political and religious activists took to the steps of City Hall Tuesday to protest against the non-discrimination ordinance that City Council will likely vote on today. Marching in front of City Hall is a time-honored and constitutionally protected act of free speech, and those standing out there Tuesday should feel proud to take part in that American institution.
They also should feel ashamed that many of their movement’s leaders have resorted to lies and hatred in an attempt to promote their cause – baselessly accusing Houston’s transgender community of being a refuge for sexual predators who prey on women and children. Harris County Republican Party Chairman Jared Woodfill, whom Republican voters wisely booted in this year’s primary election, has even taken to calling the ordinance the “Sexual Predator Protection Act.”
Are there any statistics to back up these claims? Do other cities with similar ordinances face spikes in crime rates?
States such as Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico have had these protections for years. Dallas has had similar protections for a decade. Minnesota first prohibited discrimination against transgender people in public accommodations more than 20 years ago. None of these places have faced the parade of horribles that non-discrimination opponents seem to fear.
Business leaders and law enforcement officials have lined up at City Council meetings to refute the preposterous accusations of transgender sexual predators run amok.
Yet even after Mayor Annise Parker removed provisions from the proposed ordinance that would have specifically protected Houstonians’ right to use the restroom of their own gender expression, these malicious attacks on the transgender community have not let up.
Perhaps Woodfill and his ilk would like Parker to institute citywide restroom monitors to assuage their fears.
The conservative movement has played an important role in our representative republic, defending the traditional values that long served our nation. But there is little value in spreading slander and hatred about the transgender community.
For many Houstonians, this debate was the first they have heard about the challenges and discrimination that transgender people face in our city. As truth comes to light, we have faith that reality will replace rumor, and understanding will replace animosity.
And perhaps then we can move on to the issues that deserve more attention from city government, even if they don’t whip up the crowds.
There were many signs at that City Hall protest yesterday, but one best summed up this whole debate:
“Water Mains. Potholes. Police Fire. Hell No! ‘Equal Rights’ Ord.”
We hope that last point is proved wrong. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees with the first three.
After this divisive yet important debate, City Hall should turn its attention to the top of the list.