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New Houston Area Survey Shows Houstonians Want An Equal Rights Ordinance

The findings in Rice University’s 35th Houston Area Survey come a few months after voters overwhelmingly rejected a non-discrimination ordinance.


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Stephen Klineberg
Florian Martin
Rice University sociologist Stephen Klineberg presents results of the 35th Houston Area Survey.

Sixty-one percent of voters rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, last November.

The local law would have protected 15 different classes from discrimination — including race, sexual orientation and gender identity.

"We asked three months later in the survey completed in March of this year, how important is it for the city of Houston to pass an equal rights ordinance protecting people from discrimination," said Rice University's Stephen Klineberg, who has conducted the Houston Area Survey every year since 1982.

Seventy-nine percent of Houston residents surveyed said passing a local equal rights ordinance is somewhat or very important.

Klineberg said this shows the vote against HERO was not a vote for discrimination.

"(It) was not a vote about, ‘Am I willing to provide to gays or even transgender folks equal rights and protections?'" he said. "It was about this, ‘What is this crazy law that's going to let disturbed men into women's bathrooms just because they declare that they're girls?'"

Klineberg said what made the difference in the election was how the debate was framed by opponents of the ordinance. Their very successful ad campaign focused entirely on a part of the law that would have allowed transgender people to use a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.

Klineberg said this is just one example of how public policy often differs from public opinion.

"The classic example is gun control," he said. "In our survey two years ago, 84 percent of all Houstonians said they were in favor of background checks on all gun sales in America. Tough, right? That doesn't going to get translated into public policy — at least not in the short run."

As reasons for the discrepancy, the report by Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research offers four explanations: the influence of money in politics, gerrymandering of voting districts, low voter turnout among some demographic groups, and single-issue voting.

Dr. Klineberg spoke about highlights of this year's Houston Area Survey on Houston Matters.

See the 35th Annual Kinder Houston Area Survey below.

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