#3: Houston We Have A Problem…It’s Our National Ideology!

File - In this Oct. 21, 2015 file photo, a man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, voters statewide can give themselves tax breaks, pump billions of dollars into roads and make hunting and fishing constitutional rights by supporting seven amendments to the Texas Constitution on Tuesday's ballot. And Houston will choose a new mayor and decide whether to extend nondiscrimination protections to its gay and transgender residents in a referendum being watched nationally. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)


The New York Times:

HOUSTON — A yearlong battle over gay and transgender rights that turned into a costly, ugly war of words between this city’s lesbian mayor and social conservatives ended Tuesday as voters easily repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance that had attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood celebrities.
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The City Council passed the measure in May, but it was in limbo after opponents succeeded, following a lengthy court fight, in putting the matter to a referendum. The measure failed by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent.
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Supporters said the ordinance was similar to those approved in 200 other cities and prohibited bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents said the measure would allow men claiming to be women to enter women’s bathrooms and inflict harm, and that simple message — “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” — was plastered on signs and emphasized in television and radio ads, turning the debate from one about equal rights to one about protecting women and girls from sexual predators.
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“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, told cheering opponents who gathered at an election night party at a Houston hotel. “I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right.”

The issue was one of a handful of high-profile initiatives across the nation up for a vote on Tuesday, some of which had similar culture-war undertones.

Ohio voters blocked a constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. The decision was a setback for cannabis supporters who saw the state as a potential bellwether on legalization in the Midwest.

In Houston, the ordinance’s proponents — including Mayor Annise D. Parker, local and national gay rights and civil rights groups and the actress Sally Field — accused opponents of using fearmongering against gay people, and far-fetched talk of bathroom attacks, to generate support for a repeal. The ordinance, they noted, says nothing specifically about whether men can use women’s restrooms.

The proponents’ defeat at the polls was a kind of personal blow to Ms. Parker, a Democrat. Houston became the largest city in the United States to elect an openly gay mayor when she won office in December 2009. Now in her third and final term, Ms. Parker had pushed hard for the ordinance and helped it gain endorsements from President Obama and corporate giants like Apple.

Opponents of the measure — including Mr. Patrick, pastors of conservative megachurches and the former Houston Astros baseball star Lance Berkman — said the ordinance had nothing to do with discrimination and was about the mayor’s gay agenda being forced on the city. They denied that they had any bias against gay people, and said the ordinance was so vague that it would make anyone who tried to keep any man from entering a women’s bathroom the subject of a city investigation and fine.

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“The mayor has never been able to produce a shred of evidence that’s credible of any need for this ordinance, other than everybody else is doing it,” said Dave Welch, the executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council.

The immediate effect of the vote is unclear. Ms. Parker and her supporters said Houston would lose tourism and convention business if the city had to repeal the ordinance and became known for intolerance, just as a backlash in Indiana over a religious-objections law led to convention cancellations and boycotts before that law was changed. Supporters worried that a repeal of the Houston ordinance could also jeopardize its selection as host city for the Super Bowl in 2017.

Ric Campo, a real estate developer who is the chairman of the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee, said the committee has had conversations with National Football League officials about the ordinance. “I don’t think it’s the straw that creates the imbalance where you don’t get a Super Bowl or lose a Super Bowl, but it’s definitely part of the equation when people make decisions,” Mr. Campo said.

Opponents of the measure played down any economic impact, describing the supporters’ claims as a fear tactic. Mr. Patrick minced no words about the threat of losing the Super Bowl. If Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, “would even suggest that the Super Bowl not be played here because we don’t want men in ladies’ bathrooms, then we need a new commissioner,” Mr. Patrick said.
Supporters of Campaign for Houston, a group that opposes the equal rights ordinance, checking election results Tuesday. Credit Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Both sides claimed to speak for the city. The main coalition of supporters was called Houston Unites, while the main one for opponents was Campaign for Houston. Houston Unites raised nearly $3 million, and Campaign for Houston more than $1 million. Supporters called the measure HERO, for Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, while opponents referred to it as the Bathroom Ordinance.

In Ohio, Election Day brought a different sort of referendum debate to a head, as voters rejected a proposal to legalize marijuana.

This was more than a simple legalization issue, and even some longtime marijuana advocates opposed the amendment. The legalization amendment, known as Issue 3, called for giving wealthy investors who spent about $25 million to bankroll the referendum campaign exclusive rights to grow commercial marijuana initially. Some equated that provision to enshrining a monopoly in the State Constitution, and campaigned against the amendment on those grounds.
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Recent Comments
M 5 hours ago

A man, no matter how many surgeries he’s had or female hormones injected is still a man. To allow a man into women’s bathrooms subjects…
areader 17 hours ago

I like the massive response by the defenders of the ordinance in these comments. The same as in comments on recent remarks by the Director…
HA 17 hours ago

This is what you get when you sell yourself short to the government. Rather than distinguish between gay, lesbian and transgender as…

See All Comments

The architects of the failed attempt to legalize marijuana in Ohio were handed a second defeat Tuesday when voters approved a separate, so-called anti-monopoly amendment that bans using ballot initiatives for personal economic benefit. That amendment, Issue 2, took aim at one of the most controversial provisions of Issue 3, which would have given investors in the legalization campaign exclusive access to Ohio’s first commercial grow sites.

Legalization supporters gathered at a Columbus hotel, appropriately located on High Street, for their watch party Tuesday night. Ian James, the executive director of ResponsibleOhio, which had pushed for Issue 3, called the results “a bump in the road.”

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“The work continues,” Mr. James said. “It’s not over.”

Also in Ohio, a battleground state with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled Legislature, voters approved a plan to establish a commission to oversee redistricting for legislative seats.

The seven-member panel will include three people who won statewide elections and four people appointed by the Democratic and Republican leaders in the Legislature.

In San Francisco, voters rejected an initiative that would have restricted the operations of the home-share website Airbnb, The Associated Press reported.

In Mississippi, voters did not adopt ballot initiatives that were focused on the state’s approach to funding public education. One of the measures would have compelled the state to “provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools,” and it would have given Mississippi’s chancery courts the authority to enforce the standard.

An alternative version, put forward by state lawmakers, asked whether the Legislature should “provide for the establishment and support of effective free public schools without judicial enforcement.”

But after an expensive campaign that was notable for fierce rhetoric, neither plan made it through the state’s complicated amendment process.

Manny Fernandez reported from Houston, and Mitch Smith from Columbus, Ohio. Alan Blinder contributed reporting from Atlanta.

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