Wednesday, May 14, 2014

HERO Vote Delayed Until May 28

After a late Tuesday night at 901 Bagby St. went back to City Hall Wednesday morning at 9:00 AM to watch what I hoped would be history being made with the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Instead, it was history delayed.

Houston City Council after some discussion on another civic matter dove in an hour later into much of what many of us were there for in finding out the fate of the HERO.   

There were amendments on the table from Councilmembers Gonzales, Gallegos, Davis and Pennington.

But the ones that concerned the community the most were one addressing the reducing the number of employees in a small business affected from 50 to 15, and the one the Houston trans community requested striking the problematic language in Section 17-51 (b) from the HERO.

It passed by an overwhelming 13-4 margin the Gallegos amendment that reduces the number of employees a business has to have to be affected by the HERO from 50 to 15 over the next three years.

It will be 50 in the first year,. 25 in year two and 15 in year three and subsequent years.

Councilmember Oliver Pennington introduced six amendments designed to gut the HERO.  Four of them he withdrew, but the two that remained would have hampered enforcement of the HERO and were both soundly defeated by 17-2 margins.

Then came the moment we were waiting for with the HERO itself.   After discussion about the Section 17-51 (b), the controversial bathroom provision that Lou Weaver, Dee Dee Watters, I and other trans people and allies have argued needed to be pulled from the HERO, and has been the focus of the anti-HERO's 'fear and smear' efforts, was not done in this session.

Citing the need to have more time and 'bring more stakeholders to the discussions', City Council voted 12-5 to delay the HERO vote until May 28.

Translation: It  means TBLG Houstonians have to deal with another 2 weeks of not having their human rights respected and protected in this city we love and care about.   It means the anti-HERO ministers and their flocks get to fling another two weeks of 'fear and smear' tactics aimed squarely at the trans community they can deploy that were decried in the Houston Chronicle editorial urging passage of the HERO.

It's part of the legislative sausage making that comes with creating laws, but it's still frustrating to a Houston GLBT community that has waited 30 years to have the same human rights that everyone else takes for granted.  It's also aggravating to a Houston transgender community that has been vilified and feels beat up by the loud and scientifically illiterate faith based hate speech coming from our opponents.
It means that the next Houston City Council meeting on the HERO will be a combined one on May 28.  That one will be a marathon public comment session followed by a vote.

And yep, I'll definitely be there and ready for a long, contentious day at City Hall

As I said in a local interview,  "I'm a proud Houstonian. I'm sick and tired of our city being the only one out of the major metropolitan areas in this country that does not protect its LGBT citizens."

While I have to deal with the finite disappointment of the HERO not passing today, I still have infinite hope it WILL become a reality on May 28.   

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