Houston votes against equal rights

Houston, ya done boofed it.

You voted against your own Equal Rights Ordinance yesterday, an ordinance that passed with a comfortable majority in your city council, and it wasn’t even particularly close. The only reason you even got to vote on it in the first place is because of a procedural quirk and a court case. But vote on it you did, and you voted the wrong way. And not the normal “I disagree with your vote but respect your decision” kind of wrong way. I mean the objective, “you voted against your own rational self interest” kind of wrong way.

How do I know? Because the sole rationale provided to you for voting against the ordinance was a bold-faced lie. Religious conservatives promised you that if HERO passed, it would be open season on your women and girls. You were told that men would be able to follow them into the bathroom, rape them and cite this non-discrimination law when called on it. Of course, this has never happened in the more than a decade since these kinds of non-discrimination laws have been on the books in other cities in Texas, but you believed it all the same.

Houston, via Wikimedia Commons

Houston, via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a reason why scores of Houston businesses — including many with bathrooms! — unequivocally supported HERO: because it isn’t about protecting men in women’s bathrooms; it isn’t even about protecting transgender people (who remain one of our country’s most-stigmatized groups) in particular. It’s about protecting everyone from being discriminated against based on who they are, because discrimination is bad for business and it’s bad for community. And if you had stopped to think for a second about whether non-discrimination advocates were really fighting for the right to enter the wrong bathroom — if that was really a law that a city council or other group of presumably normal people would put high on their priority list — maybe you would have realized how ridiculous such a claim was. Maybe you would have voted differently.

But at the end of the day, that’s on us, the folks who supported HERO and asked for your vote. We made the mistake of trusting you, and of assuming that you trusted your community leaders, nearly all of whom told you that HERO was a good bill worth supporting. We also made the mistake of assuming that the same things that matter in high-turnout races for federal office — having more money, leading in public opinion polls — matter in low-turnout, local races. We didn’t think we’d have to fight all that hard for this win because it was just so obvious that HERO was a good bill, and that good people would support it, because it’s been getting better for the LGBT community of late. Equality has been winning and discrimination has been losing; and in the back of our minds, maybe we thought it was always going to be like that. In the face of major wins for the LGBT community on the national level, we forgot that a good old-fashioned scare campaign can still work if not addressed head-on.

Which is why you shouldn’t expect the same kind of trust from us next time, Houston. The next time you — or anyone else, for that matter — gets told that non-discrimination ordinances mean men claiming to be women just to rape your daughter in the bathroom, we’re going hit you over the head with the rather obvious message that that’s effing stupid, and you’re dumb for believing it. Non-discrimination ordinances mean that no one in your city can get fired or denied service simply for being gay, or trans, or black, or a woman, or any other identity over which they have no control. Period. And since this apparently bears repeating, no, it doesn’t mean self-identified men are protected by law if they go into women’s bathrooms. I could hazard a few guesses as to why religious conservatives are the only people who, when they hear non-discrimination, think sex in bathrooms. But I won’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that when they say the kinds of things they said in order to repeal HERO, they’re wrong. And they’re lying. They should be ashamed of themselves, and we should be ashamed with ourselves for letting them get away with it.

Next time, we won’t.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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44 Responses to “Houston votes against equal rights”

  1. dcinsider says:

    I HATE the term cis and do not wish anyone to refer to me that way.

  2. Houndentenor says:

    On the rare occasions that anyone bothers to actual interview a trans activist, they do a GREAT job of articulating their case. It’s that our “news” media will have an entire panel of cisgendered people discussing trans rights. WTF! They do it with minority issues and gay rights as well. They couldn’t find at least one person to talk intelligently on the topic? They could have but they’d have had to bother to try.

  3. dcinsider says:

    I’m not sure that response will result in acceptance of this concept. My point overall is that transgender are light-years behind gays and lesbians when it comes to acceptance, and while they are very good at complaining about how bad gay men are at supporting them, they are very bad at articulating responses to these type of issues, and they had damn well better learn, and fast.

  4. Houndentenor says:

    The response is this: you have probably shared a restroom with a trans person already and didn’t know. And you wouldn’t know after the law was passed either. Trans people do not want to stand out or be “clocked”. Many live in fear of just that. So they just want to get in and out of there and do their business just like everyone else. The anti-equality crowd was playing on people fears. And yes, it was bigoted. Most of us are a little bit bigoted. That doesn’t mean we get a pass on treating other people like shit. The alternative to letting trans women use the women’s restroom (where they cause no harm to anyone) is to have them use the men’s restroom which puts them at serious risk. Besides, that wasn’t the argument being made. It was that cisgendered me would use this to gain access to women’s restrooms where they would sexually assault women and girls. Mike Huckabee claimed he’d have done just that. (Which tells us what a perv he really is!) That should have been confronted head on. Now it is but it should have been weeks ago. Sadly liberals keep assuming a level of decency and common sense that is not really that common, especially in places like Texas. I’m from Texas btw and lived in Houston for four years so I say that from personal experience.

  5. dcinsider says:

    I don’t know. However, it IS an issue, and many fine reasonable people object to the sharing of public restrooms. Until we have a coherent response to the objection, we are going to lose. Simply telling people they are wrong or bigots is not the response that works.

  6. Moderator3 says:

    Basically, you are in the regular commenter’s house. You should respect their “predictable” ideals. This is a warning.

  7. Houndentenor says:

    And what is it specifically that you don’t like? I’m not expecting you to go along with things you disagree with but when you express sexist, racist or anti-gay opinions, it’s perfectly reasonable for people to call you out on them.

  8. Houndentenor says:

    So someone living as a woman, dressing as a woman and identifying a woman should used the men’s room?

  9. dsa127 says:

    Yes, avoid the talking points and follow the rest of the herd. That’s how we should all live right? Or isn’t that how we got to a f***ed up place with our policies in the first place? Went too long without expressing what we don’t like.

  10. dcinsider says:

    Actually it was both.

  11. Bill_Perdue says:

    Actually it was bigots and panderers in both parties that killed ENDA in 2007. Democrats in Congress and the WH dropped it like a hot potato in 2009-2010.

  12. dcinsider says:

    Putting aside the motives of our enemies, this bathroom thing is not some made up fantasy. Many self identified trans people have fought to use the rest room of their gender identity, rather than their birth gender, and without the benefit of hormone therapy. If I were a parent, I am not sure I’d love my 5 year old girl using the rest room next to a guy in a dress. Sorry, but that’s just reality. So I can understand why the right wing jumped on this.

    And it was the trans community that opened that door, no pun intended. And there is the locker room issue.


  13. dcinsider says:

    It may be despicable, but that is not enough to counter it politically. After all, if I’m not mistaken, many of the T related arguments involve access to bathroom facilities. IT’s not like this bathroom stuff just came out of nowhere.

    Many T people prefer to use the facility that relates to their gender identity, rather than their birth gender. I’ve read countless posts on this blog and others about such demands. So when the right wing grabs the issue, they are not totally off base. We can’t just denounce them, we have to explain and counter.

    And frankly, that explanation is a heavy lift. Good people are reluctant to allow a guy in a dress use the stall next to their five year old girl. That does not make them bigots.

    Cue the Transgender police now.

  14. dcinsider says:

    Actually it was the language including transgender that killed ENDA.

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  16. Bill_Perdue says:

    Why did Democrat politicians jettison ENDA when they had the votes in 2009-10. It’s because most are rebranded bigots and that includes Obama, Pelosi and Reid who have histories of pandering to other bigots.

  17. Indigo says:

    Understood. I certainly sympathize and readily admit that I have less than no ground to criticize while living in tea party Dinselandia, Florida, of all places, and I have no particular excuse for that other than the inertia of settling into a comfortable routine.

  18. Indigo says:

    It was despicable then but it worked. It’s despicable now but . . . we’ll see.

  19. Houndentenor says:

    I know Houston quite well (and it’s not that far past 610, thank you). But given what you say, why wasn’t the campaign targeted primarily at those voters?

  20. basenjilover says:

    Less than 30% bothered to vote and you can always count on Conservatives/TeaPartiers coming out to vote. What has HRC done with money it raked in to counter “No men in women’s bathrooms” inflammatory rhetoric? I am placing the blame on HRC… Prop 8 redux.

  21. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    Rational counterpoint? I’m still looking for one. Would you care to supply a ‘rational counterpoint’ to one’s civil rights not to be branded and excluded from society or live one’s life the way he or she wishes to? Because mark my words, this is exactly what this is about.

    Trolling is about diverting a conversation away from what people are talking about into a direction you want the conversation to go. Like I said, you came here spouting a right-wing talking point about men going into women’s restrooms and oogling women. The point is that a law that excludes not only anti-gay discrimination but a wide variety of discrimination was struck down because of a narrow-minded lie. Gays, as well as blacks and asians and women, just to name a few, no longer have protection from this law. And it’s not because of anything anyone ever did. It’s what a hypothetical man might do.

    There are laws on the book that prosecute men who rape women and children. We could use those laws if this was actually a problem. But it’s not. It’s a smoke screen for the real purpose, which is to attack gay and lesbian (and black and women) by the Right.

    Your concern seems to be ‘discomfort’. You want real discomfort? What about a transgender woman going to a man’s restroom, huh? She is forced to admit she was born male. Men are forced to share their restroom with a woman. It makes it easier to identify her. This is real discomfort, both for the men who may not be comfortable with a gal in the restroom, and for the woman who is being excluded from what she sees as the right restroom because she was born with a penis. And what about the transgender _man_? He was born female, and like his trans-female counterpart, would rather use the restroom appropriate to his form. If a trans-woman is supposed to use her birth gender bathroom, shouldn’t the trans-man? Wouldn’t that create the exact discomfort you are complaining about, because unlike the trans-woman, the trans-man is dressed in male clothing, actually has a penis, and is visibly male, even though every cell in his body contains a Barr Body. Contrast this to a trans-woman going to the woman’s restroom, going into the stall, closing the door, and using the toilet (smart ones will sit, as even men can pee in a toilet sitting). The other women in the restroom will never know the girl in the third stall has something hanging in the toilet unless they go and inspect all of them. No discomfort. No harm. No foul.

    So, your discussion is moot, and is actually opposite of what you claim it is, AND you make it worse by allowing bigots to identify trans by just watching for the inappropriately dressed people going into the wrong restrooms! And to boot, you have taken a conversation about anti-discrimination laws and turned it into a discussion about fake worries and fears. The very definition of FUD — Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. Good job, masterful troll.

    TL;DR: Not only is your post trolling (it makes a discussion about discrimination into a discussion about bathrooms), it’s factually opposite of what you claim (a trans-woman going into the woman’s restroom is less disturbing to women than a trans-man going into the woman’s restroom, from when he was a cis-woman).

  22. Moderator3 says:

    That’s fine. You’re doing it in a nice manner, so go for it.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Like I said the other day: This same stupid and patently false ‘bathroom rapist’ argument was used in the late 1970s to stop the Equal Rights Amendment. The rationale then (if it can be called such) was the ERA would somehow outlaw gender separate bathrooms and it’d be open season on women and girls.

    It was a specious and despicable argument then and it’s even worse now because people ought to know better by now. Obviously not.

  24. PanchoVilla5000 says:

    Churches, all religions??, just look at the church today, 99.999% male victims of monster clergy abuse, you will only be hurting the people who support the homo agenda, try synagogues and mosques, those faiths have absolute disdain for gays, women, just about anyone different!

  25. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    Of course. As a moderator, you have to be judicious, and I appreciate that. Otherwise we’ll start looking like RedState, who bans people for merely disagreeing with their philosophy.

    But I do disagree about dsa127. Not enough to call for his banning, but enough to call him out on parroting the line that gay and trans rights meaning men can rape girls in women’s bathrooms.

  26. PanchoVilla5000 says:

    Anyone who knows Houston also knows you have to travel very far to reach teapartyland, registered black democrats voted to end this gay bill, and they voted in droves!

  27. Moderator3 says:

    dsa127 doesn’t strike me as a troll. Of course, we try to keep our eyes on all the threads. BTW – that’s not the royal we. There are more than one of us.

  28. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    Heh, wasn’t your intention to troll.

    Well. Here, let me help you out. Troll (v): To derail a conversation about a topic one doesn’t want to talk about, in favor of a topic one would rather talk about, or just for the sheer fun of derailing a conversation. Example: dsa127 trolled the article about Houston voting against equal rights by using the troll argument that equal rights means men using women’s bathrooms and molesting women and girls, thereby turning a discussion about civil rights into rape FUD. Now you should know what trolling is, and avoid doing it.

    As for your comment about people being uncomfortable? Well, if this WERE about men using women’s restrooms, your comment could definitely be applied equally to women uncomfortable about men in their restrooms as it could about trans-women being forced to use men’s restrooms.

  29. Houndentenor says:

    If you don’t want to be thought of as a homophobic and transphobic bigot, you might want to avoid using their talking points.

  30. Houndentenor says:

    So someone living as a man who has been on hormone therapy for years and has a beard should use the women’s restroom? Really?

    This was fear-mongering and nothing but fear-mongering. Other cities have the same ordinance and none of the horrors told Houstonians would happen if HERO passed had happened there. I don’t think even the people repeating this garbage actually believe it. It’s just a catch-phrase that makes them feel better about being bigots. “We don’t hate gay people but we must protect the women!” Bullshit.

  31. dsa127 says:

    It wasn’t my intention to troll. My point was that yes, in a perfect world everybody gets exactly what they want all the time and your idea is genius! Unfortunately we don’t live in a perfect world, and some people have to be uncomfortable some of the time.

  32. Houndentenor says:

    Towns? Hardly any. Neighborhoods? Yes. Those exist but venture outside them and you’re in Teabagistan. If I needed more urging to find a job in a state where I have rights, this would do it.

  33. dsa127 says:

    A rational counterpoint is not trolling. Trolling is someone saying something that doesn’t contribute to the conversation just to elicit an angry response . And the irony of YOUR trolling is just too much.
    People like you are why there is 0 productive discussion of LGBT issues. The “I’m right and any disagreement is wrong” attitude on BOTH sides just makes the division between them wider.
    TLDR: In your own head you have all the answers, but you’re actually making the problem worse.

  34. Opinionated Cat Lover says:

    I don’t like sharing a bathroom with anyone. Urinals are doubly irritating, and stalls are not all that private. Perhaps what we should do is place urinals in stalls, and make the stalls ground to ceiling. Then we can make bathrooms unisex (because guys and gals don’t need to wash their hands differently, yaknow), and be done with the entire silliness.

    But this was never about the silliness. It was about the fundamental issue of non-discrimination, not just for gays but for everyone else mentioned in the article you came in and left troll-droppings on. So, I guess this bit of wisdom is lost on you. ;)

  35. 2karmanot says:

    “about how I’m a homophobic ignorant bigot” nothing like a self aware troll to cheer up the day. Bet you look lovely in a brown shirt—-or is that too obtuse for you?

  36. 2karmanot says:


  37. The_Fixer says:

    Once again, a truism is proven: Stupid people are too stupid to realize that they are stupid.

  38. dsa127 says:

    I don’t know what I expected, other than a comment about how I’m a homophobic ignorant bigot and there’s no more discussion to be had on the matter.
    You overly-PC crowd are getting predictable, along with pathetically, offensively, willfully obtuse.

  39. nicho says:

    Your ignorance and bigotry are revealing.

  40. Indigo says:

    I’m told man Texas towns are perfectly decent and liberally minded places. Stop telling me that, please.

  41. nicho says:

    Yes, victims of the same lies told in California to pass Prop 8. Ministers told their congregations the most vicious lies about the proposition. They mislead people who trusted them to tell them the truth. It shows how poisonous religion has become, and why we need to reign it in.

    It’s time to tax the churches. If they want to play, they have to pay.

  42. Prophet With Honour says:

    Hilarious, social conservatives are being blamed (we see social conservatives everywhere on the streets of Houston LOL), African americans in polls have little regard for the rights of homosexuals and LGBT and overwhelmingly voted for this repeal

  43. Sally says:

    They are trying this in Michigan too…some woman in my hometown is irate because her workout place believes in equality, and she lost her membership because she was standing outside warning people that men were allowed in the woman’s locker room, so protect your children! I have never been there, but I suspect the showers were not open ones like at the locker room at our community center. And seriously, when I was working out, I never showered in the places anyway; I went home. But this woman is suing, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find put that the same people pushing this insanity in Houston are now at work here, to take away more rights from people. After all, we can no longer get contraception from closed PP; we can no longer be tested for cancer there; we can no longer have our votes count because of GOP trickery; we can no longer safely walk our streets for fear of being shot by some moron cleaning his ‘unloaded’ gun; we can no longer do a lot of things that were once part of this ‘exceptional’ nation. Thanks, NRA. Thanks, evangelicals. Thanks, ALEC. You have indeed, turned America into a third world nation. Will you be stoning women for having sex next? Or just shooting gays?

  44. dsa127 says:

    If there’s one thing I know will influence voters in a positive direction, it’s condescension! Oh, and though I voted the same direction as the author of this article, I still find this outrage a little hypocritical:

    If you were asking (telling, really) everyone to be ok with equality via anyone using their bathroom (so long as they identify with the gender)… Why is it so hard NOW to just use the assigned bathroom, wrong though it may be, and just suck it up like you were asking everyone else to do?

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