5 Things Hispanic Media Should Know About Houston's Fight For Equal Rights
Houston voters will decide in November whether the city's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which bans discrimination based on a number of characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity, is repealed or stays on the books. Hispanic media reporting on the ordinance should note a few important points in order to avoid reinforcing falsehoods about the measure.
1. Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance Protects From Discrimination Based On 15 Characteristics, Including Sexual Orientation
HERO Bans Discrimination Based On 15 Characteristics, Including Sexual Orientation And Gender Identity. Following a legal challenge by conservative opponents, the Texas Supreme Court ruled on July 24 that the Houston City Council had to repeal HERO or put it to a vote. The council decided to put HERO -- which bans discrimination "based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin," as well as eight other characteristics -- on the ballot to let voters decide whether the ordinance remains or is repealed. [chron.com, 7/24/15]
2. Ethnic And Racial Minorities Have Benefited The Most From The Ordinance's Protections
Houston Equality: Most Discrimination Complaints Filed Since HERO's Passage Have Involved Racial Discrimination. Since HERO was passed in May, 2014 , Houston Equality -- a group fighting to keep the anti-discrimination ordinance -- reports that a plurality of the cases filed have involved racial discrimination, proving how important the law's protections are in an ethnically diverse city like Houston.
Since May 28, 2014, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has NOT been in effect as a result of attempts to repeal the law by opponents.
Cases of discrimination have been reported to the City of Houston's Office of the Inspector General. These reports were made by people who were informed enough to contact the OIG's office, but consider all of the cases that have gone unreported.
Below is a breakdown of the types of discrimination that have been reported to the City between May 28, 2014 and January 15, 2015.
[Houston Equality, accessed 8/13/15]
3. LGBT-Inclusive Non-Discrimination Ordinances Have Been In Place Across Texas, And U.S., For Decades
HERO Protects Civil Rights In Ways Similar To Other Cities And Federal Laws. Cities and states across the country, including San Antonio, have had LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination protections for years, but conservatives' horror stories about those protections haven't come true. [Media Matters, 9/23/14]
4. The Most Pervasive Argument Against HERO Has Been Thoroughly Debunked
Media Matters Research: "Experts In 12 States Have Debunked The Right-Wing Media Transgender Bathroom Myth." Experts -- including law enforcement agents, government employees, and advocates for survivors of sexual assault -- have repeatedly proven the fallacy of the conservative talking point that sexual predators will exploit the Equal Rights Ordinance by dressing as a transgender women and entering female bathrooms to carry out attacks. [Media Matters, 3/20/14]
Houston Lawyer Christian Capitaine: "This Law Doesn't Present Any Scenarios" In Which The Transgender Bathroom Myth Is True. Univision 45's Noticiero drew attention to Houston lawyer and former county prosecutor Christian Capitaine's expert opinion that the law "doesn't present any scenarios" in which a sexual predator could use it to access women's bathrooms. [Univision 45's Noticiero, 8/19/15]
5. The Largest Group Opposing HERO Thinks LGBT People Are "Morally Depraved"
The U.S. Pastor Council Has Taken Extreme, Inflammatory Positions About The LGBT Community. Hispanic media outlets, including Telemundo Houston and Univision 45, in numerous occasions provided a platform to Pastor Hernán Castaño, a member of the U.S. Pastor Council, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars challenging the Houston City Council over its passage of HERO. As Media Matters previously reported, the U.S. Pastor Council has taken "a number of extreme and inflammatory positions," including referring to LGBT people as a "morally depraved special interest group" and to its allies as "part of the forces or spiritual darkness."
The group has been at the front line in the fight against Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which would ban discrimination against LGBT people (as well as a number of other groups) in employment, housing, and public accommodations.
In April 2014, as the city council considered adopting HERO, HAPC attacked the measure by falsely suggesting it would allow sexual predators to sneak into women's restrooms and assault women and young girls. The group urged pastors to "inform and mobilize" their congregants against the measure and helped organize a rally opposing the ordinance and attacking Parker.