The politics are even worse than you know. First, the City Council passed this thing (dubbed, in a propaganda move, HERO – Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) with no voter input. It automatically levied a $5,000 fine if the bureaucrats decided you were noncompliant, based on some complaint by a malcontent or money seeker.
Then local conservatives petitioned to repeal this. The City Attorney ordered that invalid by being extremely picky about the signatures based on a small sample. They had more than enough sigs. This was first upheld but subsequently overturned by higher appeals courts. Then the same court made the vote on the issue clear: instead of voting to “repeal” an existing illegitimate ordinance, the court ruled the wording had to be “for” or “against” HERO. HERO was suspended in the meantime. For once, some justice from the courts.
Those were tough, expensive legal battles. The petition signature issue was bogus as requirements had been set by precedents in court decisions about other issues.
So then they raised ten times the money to support HERO as opponents (according to the Houston Chronicle). Then the pro HERO ads began citing some anonymous “veteran” who claimed he was denied a job by some business owner who it was claimed, didn’t want to hire vets. This of course was never sourced. The ad even had the vet saying, “well I could have made a federal case of that but I didn’t have the time or money.” How believable is that? I never saw any story about who that “vet” was or if his claim had any actual foundation. Of course anti -HERO spots were repeatedly criticized in the media as being “unfair” and “misleading.”
The problem was that HERO had no obvious purpose other than to shake down businesses by various newly empowered groups given special “rights.” What really sunk this was that this unneeded law solved no actual problems, other than conceivably, for some new PC group, transsexuals, whose federal status for special civil rights is unclear. Of course average people knew this, as the same political proponents of HERO were lately whining about the “plight of transsexuals.” Notably Mayor Parker.
She of course is a lesbian and no one really cared much about that. So much for Houston being homophobic.
But the idea that transsexuals (mainly men in drag, in practice) could then force their way into women’s bathrooms began to circulate. Under this ordinance, they couldn’t be kept out. Not only bathrooms but anywhere else they wanted to go, including men’s bathrooms and of course, the cubicle next to yours.
Houston is for the most part a very tolerant city, very diverse (no racial group has a majority) and international. But the minority community, esp blacks, do not generally like gays or gay culture. The opponent’s ad, showing a man following a little girl into a bathroom stall, was a masterpiece. HERO supporters whined that it was “false” since laws exist to prevent harassment in bathrooms, but no one with any sense bought that. That law is never enforced so far as I know. Plus, it was clear (and never denied) that HERO could be used as a defense against any claims of harassment.
Soon, despite the lopsided money, the whining vet ad disappeared, though the bathroom ad continued. What HERO supporters did with all that money is a mystery. I don’t live in the city of Houston so I suspect a lot of direct mail was sent.
Even worse, when it was clear that HERO was doomed, almost no mention of polling indicating that was done anywhere in the news media. On election night most of the coverage was centered on HERO supporters such as the Mayor commiserating with various gay groups. It was clear than only the gay and transsexuals were interested in HERO since other supposedly affected groups already have layers of legal remedies for discrimination. Victorious opponents of HERO were given short shrift. No one mentioned the facts behind the result. (Namely, the ordinance had no valid purpose other than to hand she-males a heavy legal stick to pound private citizens and their businesses.) Mayor Parker was term limited out for re-election so I guess HERO was her parting shot at immortality. She never promoted anything like HERO when she was actually running for office, or re-election.
Days later, now, the newspaper and TV news shows are full of HERO supporters whining about their defeat and making absurd claims about how “Houston business will suffer” due to the supposedly new bad image of Houston as a bigoted, intolerant place. Supposedly this will repel educated young people from moving here and tag the city with some “hater” label. Claims of lost millions and canceled conventions and meetings are voiced, with zero factual basis. (No actual cancellations are cited in this “news.”) And zero mention is made of the fact that gee, some folks might prefer to live someplace where trannys can’t force themselves on the unwilling public or into women’s bathrooms.
Houston has been fairly tolerant of self-proclaimed transsexuals, even electing a few to minor judgeships, etc. and few care. But HERO was a gun at the heads of citizens by the PC police.
So far as I could tell the only group advocating HERO, besides the Democrat politicos, were the gay groups, and maybe not even all of them. Suspiciously absent were veteran groups, racial minority groups (other than minority politicians, but not all), immigrant or ethnic groups, religious groups (other than the usual liberal Episcopalians), women’s groups (again, other than the usual feminist Democrats, even they seemed sparse) or others allegedly to benefit from HERO.
So the propaganda battle continues. HERO proponents threaten to do another City Council (only) ordinance or push some other citizen vote. But those are empty threats since they can also count. Even in a politically Democrat city, with a bare white plurality, it would be political suicide.
HERO is a classic case of overreaching by a small special interest group. For some reason, transsexuals are now trendy. While only a miniscule percentage of the population, they are being promoted on TV and in the mainstream media as the latest victim group (despite the fact that no one seems to care about “Caitlyn Jenner”, et. al. running constantly on E! Network).
While HERO proponents still seem to want to “shame” Houstonians for their decisive vote against it, I doubt very many large cities (other than SF) would vote for a similar proposal when turnout was fairly high. Especially since despite the PR, it was clear that HERO was all about transsexuals and little else. Most Houstonians feared another layer of arbitrary “civil rights” bureaucracy and in fact, didn’t want to be forced to accommodate men in women’s bathrooms in their private property. (Curiously, no one brought up the notion of transsexual “men”- i.e. women – in men’s bathrooms.)
This ugly bit of PC business was thoroughly trounced, and no matter what CBS, NPR, NYT, et.al. may say, the HERO was doomed from the start. Not due to “bigotry” but due to common sense.
I personally don’t care one way or another about transsexuals, but don’t want to be forced to associate with any specific group. Plus I suspect some of these people are mentally/emotionally unstable. Many may be just fine but like everyone else (other than PC Comrades) I want to choose who I deal with.
Aside from a few conservative and Republican activists (and some black preachers) the only local celebrity to publicly oppose HERO was Houston native and baseball hero Lance Berkman (a fellow Rice grad) who remains extremely popular and is a Hall of Famer. He was in some anti-HERO commercials. Of course he is retired and couldn’t be pressured by the craven sports business establishment. Bob McNair, owner of the NFL Houston Texans, made a small donation to the anti-HERO forces (about $10K) but later crawfished and “asked for it back” due to PC pressure on him by locals and probably the NFL as well.
While I didn’t vote (and couldn’t) it was fun to watch a decisive defeat on election night. As I said, you could tell that this would happen since a couple of weeks before the election the reporting on HERO polls magically ceased. No public predictions about the looming defeat were aired. (Other than on a few rightwing AM radio stations.)
The episode resembled what it must have been like during some eastern European elections under communism. One sided “news” and biased reporting. Staged propaganda events using imported celebrities (if an aging Sally Field can be considered such.) The only difference was that here they actually had to more or less honestly count the votes. For once, the Comrades lost.