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Houston Council Delays Vote on Equal Rights Ordinance

Councilmembers will consider about a dozen amendments to the ordinance next week.

The proposed Houston equal rights ordinance would make it illegal to deny service or employment to someone based on federally protected status groups, with the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity.

City Council will take a final vote on it next Wednesday. Councilmember Ellen Cohen is a strong advocate for the ordinance and urged civility as they prepare to debate the issue next week.

“We cannot allow passion to replace civility,” she said. “And so I urge everyone, in the coming week, say what you need to say, contact your councilmembers, but please respect everyone’s opinion and their right to say it.”

The ordinance would apply to all businesses with 50 employees or more. It has drawn hundreds of citizens to city hall to testify for and against the proposal and councilmembers turned in about a dozen amendments to both strengthen and weaken its terms.

Councilmember Robert Gallegos submitted an amendment that would reduce the 50 employee rule down to 15 in two years. Houston Mayor Annise Parker expressed support for that idea.

“I think that the transition from 50 to 15, which is the more common standard across the United States, was thoughtful. I appreciate Councilmember Gallegos putting it forward. And I think that may be doable,” she said.

The ordinance does include an exemption for religious organizations on the basis that the rules could interfere with the practice of their beliefs.

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Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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