Houston Fox Affiliate Peddles Transphobic Attack On Equal Rights Ordinance

The Fox TV station in Houston has repeatedly mischaracterized the city's recently passed non-discrimination law in its reporting about a legal challenge against the measure, falsely stating that it would allow men to enter women's restrooms.

In May, the city of Houston approved the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents of the ordinance, including the extreme Houston Area Pastor Council, collected signatures to put the measure up for a repeal vote, falsely claiming that HERO would let sexual predators sneak into women's restrooms while pretending to be transgender.

The city determined that opponents had submitted too many invalid signatures to qualify for a repeal vote, prompting a lawsuit from HERO's opponents that has turned into an ongoing legal battle.

In its coverage of the legal proceedings, Fox's Houston affiliate has uncritically echoed the myth that HERO allows men to enter women's restrooms.

In a January 26 report, for example, reporter Damali Keith wrote:

Chances are you've heard of the fairly new Houston ordinance that allows transgender men to use women's restrooms among other things. Now a judge and jury will hear about the ordinance. Today is day one of a trial that names Mayor Annise Parker as a defendant.

The next day, Keith published another report suggesting that "transgendered men" would be allowed to enter women's restrooms:

The controversial equal rights ordinance came under fire when it was revealed as part of the measure transgendered men would be allowed to use women's restrooms. This petition is an effort to give Houstonians the right to vote on the ordinance.

Last year, the outlet also gave a platform to opponents' bathroom scare tactics through its straight-news reporting. Fox 26 aired reports by Maria Corrales that presented the issue of whether transgender people are allowed to use the restrooms of their choice as a matter of children's safety:

It's a talking point that has unfortunately pervaded much of the media coverage of the ordinance.

The fear that men will use laws like HERO to enter women's restrooms has been thoroughly debunked by experts in states and cities that already have such laws.

It's also a horror story that's been aggressively peddled by Fox News, which has worked tirelessly to defeat the ordinance. The HERO controversy has largely faded from the national conservative spotlight, but Fox 26 is making sure myths about the ordinance die hard.