Surrounded by members of the community who are impacted by the ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker announced Friday that the City will mount a vigorous effort to defend Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance from being repealed.
“The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life,” said Mayor Parker. “We don’t care where you come from, the color of your skin, your age, gender, what physical limitations you may have or whom you choose to love. I am confident voters will soundly defeat any challenge to the ordinance.”
A total of 17,269 valid signatures are required to place the referendum on the November ballot. The City Secretary has until August 4, 2014 to complete the validation process. No signature may be older than 30 days prior to today’s date.
The deadline for a City Council vote to place the referendum on the ballot is August 18, 2014.
Since City Council approval of the ordinance in May, opponents have allegedly been spreading a lot of misinformation. Bathrooms have been the subject of the most heated discussion. Mayor Parker stressed that there is no mention of the use of bathrooms in the ordinance.
“Let’s be clear, this in no way grants men the unfettered right to access women’s bathrooms or locker rooms,” said Parker. “It is simply not true and I know Houstonians are wise enough to see through the misrepresentations and exaggerations.”
Under city law, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex with the permission of the owner or another supervisor for the calculated purpose of causing a disturbance.
“I sponsored the Equal Rights Ordinance because I believe all people deserve to be treated fairly and equally and protected from discrimination,” said Houston City Council Woman Ellen Cohen. “I led the Houston Area Women’s Center for 18 years – working to eliminate sexual and domestic violence against women. This law protects women and girls – and does absolutely nothing to put their safety at risk.”
HERO prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy.
More than 80 current and former elected officials, community organizations and nonprofit groups have endorsed HERO. It had the backing of the Greater Houston Partnership, the NAACP, Rice University and the Houston Association of Realtors. The support was broad-based and diverse.