On Tuesday, Houston voters will weigh in on Proposition 1, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). In the past week, HERO has won support from some prominent leaders, companies, and celebrities, while its opponents have continued to spread fear about what they call the “bathroom ordinance.”
HERO would create a broad swath of nondiscrimination protections for the city of Houston, including protections based on race, religion, sex, military status, pregnancy, genetic information, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Its opponents have zeroed in on the protections for transgender people, claiming that they will somehow protect “men” who wish to prey on women and children in public restrooms.
“It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie. It’s a lie,” Academy Award-winning actress Sally Field implored at a pro-HERO rally on Thursday. “Not one single case has ever been reported. And believe me, if it had happened, it would have been reported.”
Field was joined by many other celebrities this week in urging passage of Proposition 1, including actors like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eva Longoria, Matthew Morrison, and Matt Bomer and athletes like Greg Louganis, Chris Kluwe, Jason Collins, and Michael Sam.
Political leaders also added their support this week, including Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. The White House even gave a nod of support, saying Thursday, “We’re confident that the citizens of Houston will vote in favor of fairness and equality.”
Apple endorsed Proposition 1 this week because “it sends a clear message that Houston is focused on a future of inclusion, diversity, and continued prosperity.” Apple joins other corporate supporters like Dow Chemical, General Electric, and Hewlett Packard. Local businesses like Camden Property Trust have also expressed support for HERO.
Despite all the national support, HERO’s opponents are still laying on the fear-mongering as heavily as they can. Speaking this week at the World Congress of Families in Utah, Houston Pastor David Welch implied that supporters of Proposition 1 are working for the devil himself.
“We need to remember as we are facing the enemy, if you will, that the enemy that we are really up against we can’t see,” he said. “Those that we can see are caught in the snares of deception and are being used as pawns for the real enemy.”
The Heritage Foundation suggested that comprehensive nondiscrimination protections like what HERO offers aren’t even necessary. “Having various employers who hold a wide variety of religious beliefs or moral commitments makes it more likely that employees can find a good fit while limiting the chance of discrimination,” senior research fellow Ryan T. Anderson wrote. “After all, employers all compete with each other for the best employees. They have incentives to consider only those factors that truly matter for their mission.”
In other words, his argument is that it doesn’t matter if someone gets fired for being bisexual, or transgender, or pregnant, or for having a disability, because the free market will just ensure they can get a job elsewhere. Customers will likewise find service at a different venue — unless of course they all discriminate.
The Family Research Council, a prominent anti-LGBT hate group, was a bit more candid in its description of HERO this week. HERO, executive director Tony Perkins claimed, “punishes people who refuse to celebrate transgenderism and homosexuality with massive fines.” It’s Christians who “are the target of this nationwide march to silence religious liberty in America.”
Turnout for early voting in Houston, which ended Friday, has actually been high for a city with a traditionally low voter turnout, but not from voters expected to support HERO. Polls have suggested that HERO has slightly more support than opposition, but one out of five voters was undecided as of two weeks ago.