In May, the city of Houston, Texas passed its first-ever nondiscrimination law, a sweeping act that included protections for the LGBT community. It prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations across a wide array of identities, including race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, among others. Now, a group of religious conservatives claim that they have collected 50,000 signatures from voters to challenge the law at the ballot.
Opponents turned the signatures in Thursday, 30 days after Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) took effect. They claim that 30,000 of the signatures have already been validated as coming from registered voters, nearly double the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. The city has another month to validate all of the signatures and determine whether voters will have a chance to repeal the law in November. TransAdvocate reports that signatures were being illegally collected by asking people to sign who had not yet registered to vote.
Annise Parker (D), the city’s three-term openly-lesbian mayor, responded by announcing that the city will “mount a vigorous effort” to defend HERO from repeal. She condemned the misinformation being spread by its opponents, declaring, “Let’s be clear, this in no way grants men the unfettered right to access women’s bathrooms or locker rooms. It is simply not true and I know the Houstonians are wise enough to see through the misrepresentations and exaggerations.” In a separate comment on Twitter, she added, “If someone lied by saying city allows sexual predators into women’s lockerrooms, I might sign petition against it, if I was that gullible.”
The group leading the effort, “No Unequal Rights,” has made that anti-transgender myth its primary talking point. The group is comprised primarily of pastors and church members, with support from the Alliance Defending Freedom. On its website, they claim that the law will “open thousands of women’s restrooms, showers, and girls locker rooms in the city to biological males! Predators and peepers can use it as cover to violate our women and children!” They also assert that the “physical and emotional safety of women and children” will be put at risk by “the tiny few who suffer from what has always been considered a psychological disorder,” even though being transgender is not considered a psychological disorder. The group also attempts to use the “race wedge” technique, warning that “it is patently offensive to claim that a sexual lifestyle or gender confusion are equal to skin color.”
Though the group claims there are examples of these laws being abused in this fashion, Media Matters spoke with many experts across the country to debunk the myth that transgender protections enable sexual predators: