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The Daily Wildcat

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Column: Texas Voters no hero to LGBTQ populations

Voters of Houston, Texas, gave LGBTQ+ people a major setback on Nov. 3. By a 61 to 39 percent margin, Houston voters overwhelmingly voted down the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, which offered employment, housing, medical care and other types of protection to all people regardless of many factors, some of which include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender information.

After the Supreme Court legalized marriage equality in June, the repeal of the Houston ordinance represents some of the backlash from certain religious and conservative groups. Many of these nondiscrimination acts, “religious freedom disputes” and wedding venue controversies are the latest high-profile disagreements pertaining to LGBTQ+ rights.

Some members of the media have started to push a narrative implying that liberals pushed too hard too fast and will start to see repercussions over LGBTQ+ rights in a similar trajectory as abortion and female health care issues since Roe v. Wade. One vote in Houston, however, seems like an inaccurate barometer of the country’s opinion on this type of issue, in addition to many other pieces of evidence that suggest conservatives are unlikely to continue to see success in denying rights to LGBTQ+ individuals.

First, the results and campaign strategies of the Houston proposition need to be further analyzed. Democrats and democratic issues across the board do worse in elections that do not take place in presidential years. As PBS notes, 30 percent fewer people tend to vote in midterms and the majority of this drop-off comes from women, young people, African-Americans and Latinos—all groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.

Even with a more conservative electorate, the nondiscrimination ordinance fared extremely poorly in this election because opponents made this complex and multi-faceted law about a single issue: transgender people using the bathroom. Dubbed “the bathroom ordinance,” opponents perpetuated inaccurate and harmful rhetoric convincing many voters in Houston that if this law passed, any man could use the female restroom claiming to be transgender and then sexually assault and rape women.

This type of rhetoric is nothing new to the LGBTQ+ community. It wasn’t too long ago that opponents of “gay rights” would perpetuate the myth that homosexuals were more likely to be pedophiles and dangerous for children, thereby permitting society to treat them as lesser. Maintaining the flagrantly false lie of transgender women or pretend-transgender women, raping people in the bathroom is just the same bigoted propaganda in a new form. Houston already has a law prohibiting people of the opposite sex using the wrong bathroom, and this ordinance wouldn’t have changed that.

Perhaps the scariest part of all this is that other campaigns will use Houston tactics to defeat similar measures. “No men in the women’s restroom” became the only issue on this ballot, and it worked. After the results of the election, Houston Mayor Annise D. Parker, who is out as a lesbian, had this to say: “This was a campaign of fear mongering and deliberate lies. … [This] was a calculated campaign of lies designed to demonize a little-understood minority.”

Despite the bad day for the LGBTQ+, and specifically the transgender community, there are many signs pointing to America’s growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ people. According to recent Gallup polls, 68 percent of Americans believe consenting relationships between gay and lesbians should be allowed and 58 percent believe in marriage equality. In regards to transgender issues specifically, a majority of Americans consider someone who is transgender to be morally acceptable, according to YouGov, and an even larger majority of Millennials don’t believe in the traditional gender binary of only men and women.

All of these polls see a wider range of support for LGBTQ+ rights from younger generations than older ones. Millennials are far more open-minded than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations about LGBTQ+ issues, which is not a trend likely to regress.

Although marriage equality is settled in the U.S., the HERO in Houston demonstrates how much progress still needs to be made, especially concerning transgender rights. As people continue to meet more LGBTQ+ people, see accurate depictions of the transgender community in the media and learn more information about these identities, progress will happen. 

The LGBTQ+ community and their allies must be vigilant and smart about their tactics and work hard to ensure that defeats like this don’t happen anymore.


Follow Jacob Winkelman on Twitter.


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