Lance Berkman, former Houston Astros star and Texas native, has waded into the fight for LGBT protections, sharing his views in a new ad campaign this week. At the center of Berkman’s concern is Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), a nondiscrimination law similar to those on the books in cities across the country and the subject of an intense debate leading up to the November 3 vote.
Berkman is focused on the part of the law that applies to public accommodations like bathrooms; he echoes the anti-trans rhetoric used by HERO’s opponents as he urges Houston residents to vote against the measure, invoking his four daughters and his desire to protect them from “troubled men” going into women’s restrooms.
“Proposition 1, the bathroom ordinance, would allow troubled men to enter women’s public bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms. This would violate their privacy and put them in harm’s way,” he says in the ad, produced by Campaign for Houston.
In an accompanying video Berkman adds, “It’s crazy and it kinda makes me want to say… Wake up, America! That’s what I want to scream at people because I mean, what are we doing here? We have the potential for men going into a women’s bathroom. The very few people that this could even be slanted as discriminating against, is it worth putting the majority of the population at risk?”
Originally passed in 2014, HERO protects Houston residents and visitors against discrimination based on a wide range of characteristics, including sex, race, religion, and gender identity. Objecting mainly to its inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity, opponents of the measure gathered signatures to overturn it and in July, the Texas Supreme Court intervened, forcing the fight onto the November ballot.
Berkman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that his opposition to the measure was based on the one equal-access application that would allow trans people to use any bathroom they consider to be consistent with their gender identity. He tried to walk back the reference to “troubled men,” saying it was not in reference to transgender people: “That language refers to that scenario or a voyeur — somebody who goes into a women’s bathroom and just likes to look at people. That to me is troubled.”
The situation Berkman describes is virtually unheard of, however. According to the Advocate, “although hundreds of trans-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances have been in force in cities around the country for several decades, there has never been a verifiable, reported instance of a trans person harassing a cisgender person, nor have there been any confirmed reports of male predators ‘pretending’ to be transgender to gain access to women’s spaces and commit crimes against them.”
Legislation has been proposed in several states, including Texas, to restrict trans people from using the bathroom that correlates with their gender identity. Proponents of those bills used similar messaging to that of Berkman and Campaign for Houston, saying the measures are a necessary protection against predators. However, spokespeople from the Transgender Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and the American Civil Liberties Union told Mic earlier this year that there is no statistical evidence to support that claim.
Berkman, who also played for the Cardinals, received a standing ovation when he threw out the first pitch in St. Louis on Saturday night — a city that the Post-Dispatch notes has had an ordinance similar to the one proposed in Houston for several years. The Cardinals told the paper they were aware of the ad campaign and that Berkman’s views did not reflect those of the organization.
When reached by ThinkProgress, the Astros declined to comment on Berkman’s attack on the city’s equal rights ordinance.
Major League Baseball has prioritized LGBT inclusion this year, naming Billy Bean its first Ambassador for Inclusion. Bean, who retired from baseball in 1995 and came out in 1999, has been tasked with fostering a culture of acceptance for LGBT people in baseball. MLB did not respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment regarding Lance Berkman.