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Houston City Council Could Vote On New Equal Rights Ordinance Within Next 2 Months

Despite voters repealing Houston’s equal rights ordinance, Mayor Annise Parker says it is not the end of the HERO law. Her options are limited as she reaches the end of her term.

Mayor Annise Parker addresses the pro-HERO crowd
Mayor Annise Parker addresses the pro-HERO crowd after voters rejected the ordinance by a wide margin.

At the pro-HERO watch party, Parker seemed optimistic in the face of defeat.

“We will be back,” she said. “This ordinance you have not seen the last of.”

During her press conference after this week’s city council meeting, Parker said she might try to introduce a new anti-discrimination ordinance before she leaves office in January.

“If I can, with council,” she said. “If not, I trust that the next mayor will be one who actually understands that this is a diverse city and needs this kind of ordinance.”  

She said she has talked to several of the 10 council members who voted for the ordinance when it passed last year and that there is a “strong desire” among them to bring the issue back, possibly as piecemeal – maybe first focusing on discrimination in employment and housing.

“You may have noticed that I’m trying to clear as many things off my desk as possible,” Parker said. “I don’t really want to leave a whole lot of contentious items for the next administration. I’m going to try not to leave this one as well.”

Former City Attorney Dave Feldman, who helped write the ordinance, said Houston’s City Charter is silent on the issue of reintroducing an ordinance after it was repealed by voters.

He doesn’t expect it to come up any time soon.

“Really, as I see it, there is nothing that precludes a future city council from presenting another similar type of ordinance,” Feldman said, “which I would expect to happen not in the near future, but at some point in time.”

Council member Ellen Cohen, a strong supporter of HERO, said she’s definitely for introducing a new anti-discrimination ordinance.

“I can’t say whether it’s a good or a bad idea to go ahead and do something now,” Cohen said. “I think what we need to do, and we can do it as soon as possible, is start talking about it.”

Rice University political scientist Bob Stein said introducing the same ordinance wouldn’t make sense, because the voters rejected it by a 61 to 39 margin.

Brandon Rottinghaus at the University of Houston agrees, saying it should at least provide for an exception for bathroom use, since that was the single focus of the opponents’ campaign.

They claimed the ordinance would allow men pretending to be women to enter women’s restrooms.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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