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Houston Councilmembers Delay Vote on Controversial HERO Ordinance

The equal rights proposal has stirred significant debate at city hall.

After listening to hours of testimony from hundreds of citizens over the past several weeks, Houston’s City Council decided the proposed equal rights ordinance requires further review.

Several councilmembers cited Mayor Annise Parker’s last minute change to remove specific language about transgender use of restroom and shower facilities as a reason for needing more time, while others said they
need time to vet the amended ordinance with their constituents.

City Council
Advocates for transgender community stand to demonstrate support for HERO ordinance

The delay disappointed a number of supporters in the audience, among them Monica Roberts, who is transgender.

“This amendment is more than just bathroom crap that has been thrown around by our opponents for the last several weeks. It is about the human rights of all Houstonians, not just for the few,” Roberts said.

Parker already has enough votes around the council table to pass the ordinance and expects it to go through in two weeks. She called the process of debating this issue intensely personal.

“It is my life that is being discussed,” Parker said. “And while we can say around this council chamber that it applies to the range of protected groups, and it does, and it is right and appropriate that the City of Houston finally acknowledges a local ordinance that respects African-Americans and Hispanics and those of different religions, the debate is about me. The debate is about two gay men at this table. It is very intensely personal.”

That particular speech bothered some in the audience. The overwhelming number of phone calls and emails to the mayor and councilmembers have expressed opposition to the ordinance. Pastor Max Miller of Mt. Hebron Missionary Baptist Church says this should be about the will of the people.

“You cannot represent the people of this city on a personal matter. They represent the people, not themselves,” Miller said. “We have to always remember that you can’t vote your conscience, you have to vote what the constituents that voted you in have informed you they want.”

Mayor Parker responded to that criticism by saying this is a vote of conscience for nearly everyone around the council table and is not subject to popularity.

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Laurie Johnson

Newscaster

Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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