Houston Council Delays Vote on Equal-Rights Law
Houston leaders on Wednesday delayed a vote on a nondiscrimination measure that has become a flashpoint for protesters as supporters of the law seek to extend protections for gay and transgender people.
The city council was scheduled to vote on the ordinance but ultimately chose to postpone any action until May 28 so that the public can provide more input.
Mayor Annise Parker and other supporters want to ban discrimination based on sex, race, national origin, age, religion, disability and for an array of other categories, even obscure ones such as discrimination based on one’s genetic composition. Federal law already bans discriminatory practices in many of the categories.
Violators could be fined up to $5,000.
The debate over restrooms is similar to the discussions around the city of San Antonio’s nondiscrimination ordinance that passed last year. Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and El Paso have similar ordinances. Houston is the largest city in the country and the only major city in Texas without any nondiscrimination ordinance.
On Tuesday, various pastors along with several hundred people gathered outside Houston City Hall to protest the proposed ordinance. Until then, hearings on the ordinance had gone without the acrimony that marked passage of a similar ordinance in San Antonio last year.
Those who protested the ordinance said the measure would infringe on their religious liberties to speak out against what they called the gay, lesbian and transgender lifestyle.
Supporters of the ordinance, including Parker, who is openly gay, said the measure is about offering protections at the local level against all forms of discrimination.