Rebekah Barquero" />
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Thursday, September 21, 2023


Houston deserves HERO to protect against discrimination

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Graphic by Courtney Williams/The Cougar

When I hear the word hero, I think of someone in a cape that wears spandex and has superpowers. Now, for Houstonians, HERO is the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — a measure to protect Houston residents and visitors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Despite its goal of equality, there is controversy surrounding this regulation, with false claims based on fear and judgement.

There have been “Anti-Hero” ads, like the one that shows a man following a little girl into a bathroom.

“Any man at any time could enter a woman’s bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day,” the ad says.

Local police and Mayor Annise Parker have already responded to the ad, expressing no concerns for this.

“On the face of it, that’s a crime,” Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said. “Nothing will change about the violation of the law.”

Indecent exposure, harassment and assault in restrooms are already illegal. HERO doesn’t allow a crime to be committed.

HERO is about two vital issues: anti-discrimination and the health of the local economy.

Houston is the last major Texas city to enact equal rights protections. Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio have had nondiscrimination protections on the books for more than a decade and have had no problems — with transgendered bathroom lurkers or anything else, for that matter.

The equal rights ordinance is a vital local tool to help protect all residents when they are treated unfairly, without forcing them to file a federal lawsuit or bear the burden of a costly and protracted legal battle.

If the ordinance is repealed, our local economy is likely to suffer. Being that Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., repealing the ordinance would weaken our rapidly growing reputation for openness and appreciation for diversity.

The result would be a loss of jobs when conventions and big-time sporting events decide to go elsewhere, when corporations conclude that Houston may not be all that interested in nurturing a diverse workforce, when talented young people get the impression that Houston is stuck in the past.

The Greater Houston Partnership and the Greater Houston Black Chamber, along with many others are in support of this ordinance.

“We believe all Houstonians should be able to find a job, enjoy an evening out and find a place to live without facing discrimination,” said the President and CEO of Greater Houston Partnership. “These are basic rights that we should all enjoy in a welcoming community, and they are good for business.”

Making sure we live in a professional environment with open-mindedness is key to not only our economy, but to the well-being of the residents in our city. To allow small-minded arguments, deceitful claims and cynical tactics to triumph on election day would be a rejection of core values that are fundamental for Houston.

Opinion columnist Rebekah Barquero is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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