Residents of Houston will officially have their say on an equal rights ordinance preventing the discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The City Council decided Wednesday not to repeal the ordinance, nicknamed HERO, choosing instead to put it on the ballot in November for voters, KHOU reported. The Texas Supreme Court ordered the council to do one or the other last month.
The controversial ordinance has a somewhat complicated history. It passed the city council in May 2014, but its critics quickly put together a petition demanding Houston either lift the rule or put it to a vote. The city secretary accepted the signatures at first, but the mayor and city attorney determined some of them shouldn't have been verified. The city invalidated the petition, and a judge took their side. The opposition took the case to the Texas Supreme Court, which reversed the decision.
Houston's city council voted 12-5 Wednesday affirming the ordinance, which would forbid many employers and housing groups from discriminating based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, military status, family or marital status. "All we're saying by this is that everyone should have an equal opportunity to equal rights," Councilwoman Ellen Cohen told the Houston Chronicle.
— M. Ragsdale Darragh (@MelissaLovesHOU) August 5, 2015
Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay, reportedly sent around a memo Wednesday expressing her support for the decision. She also released a statement earlier in the week, when a group of pastors announced their intent to sue Parker for violating their civil rights in her investigation of the petition.
"This new lawsuit is not about civil rights or religious freedom. It’s about politics. It is being waged by a small group that wants to take Houston backward instead of moving it forward," she said. "The ongoing effort by this group threatens to hurt that image and our progress."
The vote may be months away, but conversation was already heating up on Twitter. A group of Twitter users have started tweeting the hashtag #BeyBeAHERO, urging Houston native Beyoncé to support the ordinance.