Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Rejected, Transgender Women Banned From Ladies’ Restrooms

Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance was rejected by 61 percent of the city’s voters on Tuesday. The measure, which has been a point of heated controversy for more than one year, would have allowed transgender women to use ladies’ restrooms. Although opponents insist the ordinance is meant to prevent discrimination, opponents argued that it threatened the privacy and safety of women and children.

It is important to note that restrooms are not specifically mentioned anywhere in Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance.

The ordinance, which is provided by Scribd, was promoted as an amendment to three chapters of Houston, Texas’, existing Code of Ordinances.

As explained in the wording of the measure, chapters 2, 15, and 17 “prohibit discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics in city employment… contracting practices, housing, public accommodations, and private employment.”

Although the list of protected characteristics includes those traditionally protected by law, Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance also prohibits discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The measure does not specifically mention transgender women, and their use of ladies’ restrooms. However, it prohibits discrimination based on gender identity in public facilities — which include restrooms and showers.

In a public advertisement, posted on YouTube, former Astros baseball player Lance Berkman explained why he and many others opposed the Equal Rights Ordinance.

“My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. It’s better to prevent this danger by closing women’s restrooms to men, rather than waiting for a crime to happen. Join me to stop the violation of privacy and discrimination against women.”

As reported by New York Times, opponents believe the measure “had nothing to do with discrimination and was about the mayor’s gay agenda being forced on the city.” However, supporters of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance vehemently deny the claims.

Supporters argue that the ordinance was designed to ensure equal rights for all residents, and guests, regardless of age, color, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, military status, pregnancy, religion, or sexual orientation.

Although gender identity and sexual orientation were not previously included in the city code, supporters said the addition were necessary to prevent unfair discrimination.

The controversial ordinance was approved by city council on May 28, 2014 and confirmed by Mayor Annise Parker. However, voters repealed the law less than two years later. As reported by the Texas Tribune, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick applauded the voters’ decision.

“The voters clearly understand that this proposition was never about equality – that is already the law… It was about allowing men to enter women’s restrooms and locker rooms — defying common sense and common decency.”

Supporters of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance were clearly disappointed with the outcome. However, they have vowed to keep fighting for equal rights for all of Houston’s guests and residents.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who was a strong proponent of the measure, said she is concerned the decision will taint “Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming, global city.” She is specifically concerned that the decision will negatively impact the city’s economy.

Although 22 state laws prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, 28 others, including Texas, do not. However, several cities in Texas have adopted their own anti-discrimination laws — which do include equal rights regardless of gender identity and sexual orientation.

Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth have offered “LGBT residents some degree of protection” for the last 10 years. Plano and San Antonio approved similar measures last year.

Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, in its current form, was strongly rejected by the city’s voters. Although supporters insist they have not given up, it is unclear how they will proceed with their plan to ensure equal rights for all residents.

[Image via Shutterstock / Meepoohfoto]