Update: Houston at odds over non-discrimination equal opportunity ordinance

Houstonians protest equal opportunity ordinance
Houstonians protest equal opportunity ordinance

Wednesday, May 14th, the City Council body will vote on the non- discrimination equal opportunity ordinance, during their regular city council meeting at 9 am in council chambers.

The day before the Wednesday City Council meeting Councilmember Jerry Davis along with Mayor Parker decided to change the language of the ordinance in order to compromise with Houstonians who weren’t so receptive to the ordinance as is.

The section that states the businesses open to the public cannot deny a transgendered person entry to the restroom that is consistent with his or her gender identity caused controversial debates and even protest that had faith based leaders preaching on the steps of City Hall and community members singing Hallelujah loud enough outside to be heard inside on the second floor.

Taboo as the issue maybe it has brought out the worst fears in many who believe that the ordinance can be an opening for predators. Yet during Tuesday’s public session many Houstonians came up to support the ordinance saying it is not a safety issue but a safety issue.

“Have you ever heard of a man in a dress hurting anyone,” said Councilmember Ellen Cohen, who avidly supports the Mayor’s ordinance.

Laughter has been the tension breaker throughout many testimonials, pro and con. The ordinance has served many Houstonians already as it was a way for them to be vocal about the LGBT rights and a platform for those who were living in secrecy to come out and have support as Matthew Williams did during one public session.

Houstonians gather in City Council chambers in support of equal opportunity ordinance.
Houstonians gather in City Council chambers in support of equal opportunity ordinance.

Mayor Parker believes that the language has become a distraction from the essence of her ordinance which is to give civil rights protections to gender identities.

“People ought to have the right to have safe and public bathrooms… it is inhuman that someone who is transgender would have to search for a gender neutral bathroom. Who knew people would focus an issue on transgender use of bathroom,” said Mayor Parker.
Section A of the ordinance will be amended and will strike the paragraph of the ordinance that would allow transgendered persons entry into the restroom they identify with but the rest of the ordinance will stay the same.

They gender identity clause has overshadowed the other attributes of the ordinance for non- discrimination such as race and gender, which is a reason Councilmember Jerry Davis, District B, is such a strong advocate for the passing of the ordinance. His leadership and outspokenness is tied into his work towards bring contracts to minority business owners in the city. Even former Councilmember for District D, Jolanda Jones asked for the passing on the ordinance on the stance of racial and gender discrimination.

Councilmember at Large, C.O. Bradford tagged the item for it to revisited in two weeks so he and his colleagues examine the clauses A &B in the ordinance before voting. The language was changed just hours prior following the Tuesday session.

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