While Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin boast perfect scores of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's new LGBTQ equality scorecard, Houston basically got a C-.
The national civil rights organization graded dozens of major cities across the United States according to how fairly LGBTQ citizens are treated in city policies and ordinances, even if their respective states lack equal protections. Criteria included non-discrimination ordinance protections, employer benefits for LGBTQ people, available city services to help promote LGBTQ equality and support and fair enforcement of the law.
Compared to Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin's perfection and San Antonio's 95, Houston scored only 71, coming in at seventh place, below Plano. The fact that Houston doesn't have a non-discrimination ordinance cost the city big time, according to the scorecard, and so did the fact that transgender Houstonians who work for the city are not afforded any health-care benefits. The Human Rights Campaign also docked Houston for not having a human rights commission.
Meanwhile, Texas's other big cities all offer protections to their LGBTQ citizens through non-discrimination ordinances — and there haven't even been any reports of bogeymen dressed as women in bathrooms, believe it or not.
"The fact that we lost [the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance] last year is the No. 1 cause," ACLU of Texas Executive Director Terri Burke said. "And I think the fact that it has been such a long fight in Houston is another. There have been a number of ballot measures over the years in Houston that have failed. We have this big, open, welcoming city. We three times elect the first lesbian mayor of a major city. And yet, on this issue, we can't get it."
Burke said the repercussions of Houston voters' failure to vote for HERO are obvious, from the lack of protections from discrimination for people of all races, ages and ethnicities — not just LGBTQ Houstonians — to the economic blowback businesses face. As the Houston Business Journal reported, four "fairly large" companies told the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau president in November that they were concerned about what the defeat of HERO means for their businesses; as the Journal noted, if any one of those undisclosed companies decided not to host a convention in Houston, the city could have lost a "substantial amount of business opportunity."
Pointing to the NCAA's decision to pull out of North Carolina because of its anti-LGBTQ law, Burke said she doesn't think Houston will be hosting the Final Four anytime soon unless it decides to vote for equality.
"On the national stage, [not passing HERO] made us look like a city of hateful people," Burke said. "It's not who we are."
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