A woman who plans on having children one day might change her mind if Houston keeps its equal rights ordinance—or at least that's what she says in Houston's first anti-HERO radio ad.
The one-minute ad, paid for by the Campaign for Houston PAC, focuses on how HERO—or "Mayor Parker's bathroom ordinance," as the woman calls it—will affect public safety, primarily for women. "This ordinance will allow men to freely go into women's bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers," the woman says. "That is filthy; that is disgusting; and that is unsafe."
Richard Carlbom, campaign manager with the pro-HERO group Houston Unites, called the ad "vulgar" and "misleading." To Carlbom and the ordinance's supporters, the focus on bathroom panic detracts from the actual core of the ordinance, which is to root out discrimination. “We're very disappointed that that's the tactic they want to play.”
Disappointed—but not surprised. The radio ad's approach is nothing new in the world of non-discrimination ordinances that include protections for transgender people. In cities across the country that have sought or succeeded in passing ordinances like HERO, the opposition's primary focus was the supposed threat to public safety of men dressing up as women to use women's restrooms. Like the ad that started airing this week on Houston radio stations—including Mix 96.5, Sunny 99.1, KNTH AM 1070 and KSEV Radio—these campaigns play off the fear that straight men dressed in drag will enter women's restrooms to assault women and children.
While HERO certainly won't make it legal to harass people in restrooms, what it will do is protect people from discrimination in city and private employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing and public accommodations on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.
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“What they're trying to do is distract voters and try to scare them into thinking [HERO] is about something else,” Carlbom said. “There's nothing in this ordinance that changes the fact that, if you go into a bathroom with ill intent, you're breaking the law, and you should be prosecuted to the full extent. This does not change that.”
There are no reported cases of transgender people—or even of men dressing in drag for the day—attacking women in a public restroom following the passage of a non-discrimination ordinance, in any city. The transgender community puts it this way on Twitter: #WeJustNeedToPee.
Listen to the full ad below.