Ben Hall Signed Dave Wilson's Trans-Phobic Petition to Amend City Charter

Houston Community College Trustee and ardent anti-LGBT rights activist Dave Wilson is at it again. 

Wilson is currently best known as a rather controversial trustee for Houston Community College, but he has other interests as well. In addition to his passion for education, or whatever, he's also a dedicated anti-LGBT rights activist. Previously that devotion has translated to attempts to stop  the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which council passed in May 2014 extending equal rights protections to gay and transgender residents. The ordinance, and a petition drive aimed at repealing the law, are currently subject of a drawn-out court battle between HERO opponents and the city. 

Wilson contends his most recent petition filed with the city has a slightly more narrow focus than wiping out HERO. Wilson says his newest petition is all about gender definitions relating to, you guessed it, whether people of the opposite sex can use a different bathroom.

You see, in Wilson's world the opposite sex is apparently clamoring to get into previously forbidden bathrooms. "I don't approve of men using the women's restrooms," he related earnestly. When we asked how he felt about women using the men's restroom or locker room he explained he's against that too. Wilson's petition, filed on July 9, would change the city charter to restrict men to the men's bathroom, and women to the women's. “My petition is about defining gender identity and by defining gender identity in the charter it will prohibit men from using the women's restroom,” Wilson says. 

In the past few months, Wilson has submitted two batches of petitions attempting to change the gender definition as it relates to bathrooms. The first one was short on signatures so the city refused to review it. Mayor Annise Parker has refused to look at the latest petition because she says it is an attempt to kill the HERO ordinance, despite the fact that any attempt to kill HERO would have had to be filed within 30 days of the ordinance being enacted. (The actual ongoing legal battle over the petition that was filed to kill HERO started last year shortly after the ordinance was passed by city council and well within that 30-day time limit.) 

Wilson denies that he's out to get rid of HERO, noting that he has no problem with equal rights for employment or housing. It's just the bathroom thing that bothers him, he says.  “This has nothing to do with killing ordinance 530 – some people refer to it as HERO but in my view there's nothing heroic about it – and the mayor is saying I'm trying to repeal an ordinance so she won't have to count the ballots on my petition … but this is a charter amendment change, not an ordinance.”

Now the HCC trustee, who some might remember basically pretended to be black while campaigning for his seat,  is suing the city to try and force Parker and company to recognize the petition. “If I don't go forward with the lawsuit she won't do her ministerial duty, and it won't be before the public in November. That's all this is about, giving the citizens of Houston, Texas a right to vote on this," Wilson says. A hearing to determine whether the suit can move forward is scheduled for Friday.  

At the same time Wilson's opposition has also been hard at work combing through this petition to find identify the signatures of prominent people who deigned to sign off in support of this charter amendment. Members of  HOUequality, a pro-HERO group, waded through the more than 20,000 signatures collected by Wilson and his cohorts finding the signatures of people that you'd want to know had signed this thing. Of course perpetual mayoral candidate Ben Hall's name appeared on the petition, a move that was rather pointedly noted on HOUequality's Facebook page. 

On Tuesday HOUequality posted a photo of Ben Hall's signature on the anti-HERO petition."If someone is running to represent all Houstonians (in fact Mr.Hall's campaign slogan has been 'Ben Hall for All') how can they add their name to a petition designed to divide and denigrate transgender Houstonians?" the post asked. (We called over to Hall's campaign headquarters and a Hall volunteer confirmed that Hall definitely signed it.) HOUequality has promised that there will be more of these disclosures coming this week.

Meanwhile, Wilson is still out there trying to get the city to acknowledge his petition in the first place. He acknowledged that he doesn't want men in the women's bathroom or women in the men's. We pointed out that no one really wants in the women's restroom because the lines are always too long. He agreed with us on that one. Wouldn't it be great if it turned out this whole thing was a gambit to protect those always-much-shorter men's restroom lines? Otherwise, we're stumped as to why anyone would care which restroom a person uses. 

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Dianna Wray is a nationally award-winning journalist. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.
Contact: Dianna Wray