An LGBT activist in Houston, Texas shut down a local TV news host's misleading questions about the city's non-discrimination ordinance, dismantling a right-wing lie about non-discrimination protections that has infected local and national media coverage of the fight for LGBT equality.
In July, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) - which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and a host of other factors - must be repealed or put on the ballot for a vote in November. Opponents of the ordinance have spent months falsely claiming that HERO would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms by pretending to be transgender - a myth that local media outlets have been all too willing to run with.
But during the August 2 edition of Houston's ABC 13 Eyewitness News' “City View,” local LGBT activist Noel Freeman shattered the transgender bathroom myth:
FREEMAN: Non-discrimination ordinances that are LGBT-inclusive have existed in the United States for more than 40 years. And in those 40 years across the entire country, zero, zero times has somebody committed an act in a bathroom and claimed a non-discrimination law as a defense.
It's simply not true. The fact of the matter is it has never happened across the entire country in 40 years. It's never happened. Plano went through this about a year ago. They said it was going to happen, it didn't happen. San Antonio, two years ago, didn't happen. Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, 10, 15 years ago - didn't happen. It's just not true.
Somebody who's intent on breaking the law doesn't care what the law is. But the reality is that Houston has laws that makes that illegal. And so the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance isn't anything about this lie and this bathroom myth that's being presented by opponents of the issue.
Freeman is right: in state after state and city after city with LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances, conservative horror stories about public restrooms have never come true.
But Houston media outlets continue to take the right-wing “bathroom lie” seriously, uncritically repeating it in their coverage of the HERO debate despite the fact that it's been proven false in every other Texas city that's adopted a similar non-discrimination law.
So while it's great that Freeman was able to debunk that lie so effectively, he shouldn't have had to.