In a heartbreaking loss, Houston voters succumbed to dramatic anti-LGBT ads to vote down the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO.
Prop. 1, known as Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, would have barred discrimination on the basis of race, age, military status, disability and 11 other categories in a variety of areas. (Religious organizations and institutions would be exempt from the requirements.)
It was HERO’s protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, however, that attracted the most attention and made the ballot measure the center of the LGBT community’s efforts this election.
The Houston City Council narrowly approved the equal rights ordinance last year, but after a petition drive by anti-gay activists, the Texas Supreme Court ordered the city in July to either repeal it or put it on the November ballot — giving each side just a few months to make their case.
Conservative activists — who were heavily outspent by LGBT advocates — dubbed Prop. 1 the “bathroom ordinance” and adopted the slogan “No men in women’s bathrooms,” playing up fears that passage could lead to male sexual predators dressing up as women and entering women’s restrooms.
This factually dishonest message proved to be incredibly effective: Many Houston voters seemed to think the measure was solely about access to restrooms and were unaware of the broader nondiscrimination protections in the measure.
Over 200 American cities have similar LGBT protections in place.