As we all know by now, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (commonly known as HERO) was decisively repealed in last Tuesday’s election. The ordinance, according to wearehero.us, aimed to protect “15 different categories of Houstonian from discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment and housing. It prohibited discrimination based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, and pregnancy.”
The demise of HERO has garnered national attention. Recently, in The New York Times Opinion Pages, one reader wrote:
My partner and I were going to go see the Mark Rothko exhibit in Houston, the Menil Collection and the Rothko Chapel. We would have stayed one or two nights at a nice hotel, hit a few upscale eateries, and paid for taxis, airport taxes and hotel taxes. That trip has been canceled.
You can have your hate, Houston. But you can’t have my money.
TODD B. ROSIN
Local supporters of the measure blame a risible, but effective, “bathroom” campaign which showed a man menacing a schoolgirl in a public restroom. Even Beyoncé, Houston’s most famous citizen, has been criticized for not supporting HERO. But an ineffective campaign in support of HERO that caused weak turnout of progressive voters is the likely cause.
It remains to be seen whether Houston will feel the same kind of heat that Indiana got in the wake of its controversial law allowing businesses to discriminate against gay customers (it probably helps that Houston is not about to host the NCAA Final Four). Regardless, we will continue to watch how Houston’s artistic community responds to HERO’s failure to pass.