Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Houston's ERO approved by city council on 11-6 vote

ThinkProgress was first, Tweeting out their story moments after the vote was final.

After many hours of testimony from over 200 speakers, the Houston City Council voted 11-6 to approve the Equal Rights Ordinance, which creates nondiscrimination protections for many classes, including sexual orientation and gender identity. Houston was one of the only large cities in the country that had no municipal nondiscrimination policy.

It was not without exchanged threats of electoral retaliation, ridiculous statements by those in opposition, and many other dramatic and absurd moments.

During the debate, supporters of the bill spoke to alliances across groups, noting how the ordinance would protect following identity classifications: sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy. Opponents argued that the protections would impose on religious beliefs, forcing individuals to violate their own religious beliefs by serving, as an example, a marrying same-sex couple. They also asked that the ordinance be put to a city-wide vote instead of being approved by the Council.

CM Michael Kubosh -- whom I recently praised as a reasonable man -- reverted to social conservative form.  He backtracked on his statement that God had placed him on council to vote against the ordinance, he declared his ignorance on the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity, and generally disgraced himself.  He was one of the six 'no' votes.  The remaining five dissenters were Brenda Stardig, Dave Martin, Oliver Pennington, Jack Christie, and in the day's most shameful profile in cowardice, Dwight Boykins.

I'll add some other reactions in later updates.

Update:  Boykins, the lone Democrat among the noes, used the two-week hiatus to let the African American pastors and their shared constituents scare him away from voting for equality.  By contrast, council members Jerry Davis and Larry Green were steadfast in turning back the forces of hate.  Both men said their re-election bids would be heartily challenged if they voted in favor of the ordinance; Davis quoted Malcolm X, while Green noted there are some things "bigger than myself".

These men get it.  You're elected to public office to serve all of the people, and not just the will of the majority of those who voted for you.  If doing the right thing means you lose the next election, that's how politics works sometimes.

What courage is required to vote 'no' on another person's civil rights?  To vote against a city ordinance that says we won't treat some people as less human than we do others?  When the only semi-rational justification boils down to "I'm afraid I might burn in hell"?

Yesterday at City Hall was nut-cutting time for a few people, and they didn't pass the test.

Update: Hair Balls recorded some of the reactions outside council chambers, which were about as Fellini-esque as it gets.  Not just in Houston, but anywhere in the world.


Unknown said...

Kubosh's reasoning for his no vote late in the evening - that his constituents' fears about bathrooms were irrational but had swayed him anyway - was possibly the WORST argument I've ever heard for a vote.

Of course, he also said he hopes gay people in his district won't hold it against him that he voted to allow businesses to refuse service to them.

What a disaster of a speech.

PDiddie said...

Kubosh is just a shaking, quivering, conservative cis male. He is so terrified of the wrath of God and Republican voters -- and not necessarily in that order, as you say -- that he didn't know whether to shit himself or go blind yesterday. So he did both.

I can excuse that behavior coming from him much easier than I can from Dwight Boykins.