Photo Credit: AP
With the excitement of the 2016 presidential election just around the corner, this year's local elections may have taken a backseat in some citizens' minds, but yesterday's votes accounted for many decisive changes in communities across the United States.
One of the most talked about propositions on the ballot yesterday, was Houston's controversial Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, better known as HERO to some and as the "bathroom bill" to others.
The ordinance, which was championed by the city's outgoing mayor, Annise Parker, sought to ensure equal rights for all Houston citizens by prohibiting "discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.”
Federal laws already prohibit discrimination based on the majority of the identities listed in the ordinance, such as age, sex, race and religion, but there are no laws on the books that protect people who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters of the ordinance saw HERO as a way to protect Houston's LGBTQ population's rights, so they wouldn't have to live in fear of being unfairly fired from jobs or denied housing.
However, critics argued that the ordinance's expansive protection of transgender people would endanger women and children by allowing male sexual predators into women's bathrooms. The opposition campaigned against HERO with the slogan of, "No men in women’s bathrooms,” which gave the ordinance the nickname of the "bathroom bill."
HERO's opposition gained support from many Texans, including the state's conservative governor Greg Abbott and Former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman, who stared in an advertisement urging Houston residents to vote against HERO.
HOUSTON: Vote Texas values, not @HillaryClinton values. Vote NO on City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women's bathrooms.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 2, 2015
As of Wednesday morning, with 95 percent of precincts reporting in, the ordinance failed to pass with about two-thirds of voters saying "no" to HERO.
Conservative voters are celebrating the victory now, but HERO's supporters have yet to give up.
“We are disappointed with today’s outcome, but our work to secure nondiscrimination protections for all hard-working Houstonians will continue,” Houston Unites, a coalition of groups supporting HERO said in a statement. “No one should have to live with the specter of discrimination hanging over them. Everyone should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families.”