They said no. They screamed it.
Protesters yelled in front of city hall Wednesday, in opposition of legislation for a Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
"We say no," the protesters repeated.
A few women, serving as reverb, chanted "God says no."
ERO adorned their chests, thick red slashes cutting through acronym. The shirts sold for $5.
The cheap price wasn't enough to attract much of a market. Though most of the anti-HERO protesters wore the t-shirts - the number of people was closer to 50 than to 100 - there were three boxes filled with shirts.
And soon, the shirts would be of no use. City Council passed the HERO with a 11-6 vote.
William Sutherland helped hold a sign above his "Come and Take It" cap.
The sign, black with white letters, read, "Mayor Parker! Stay out of our bathrooms and businesses!" Sutherland is worried that the HERO will infringe on others' rights.
He's scared he won't be able to express his conscience. That's what is most important to him. "Unless you're politically correct in a way, you don't have freedom of speech anymore?" Sutherland said.
Sutherland said where transgender people go to the bathroom is an important, but secondary issue. Sutherland called his views, and the views of the other anti-HERO protesters, politically incorrect, but he still wants to be able to have them.
"This is just a stepping stone," Sutherland said. "Laws - it's always an incremental kind of thing. Our liberties get eroded little by little ... What one day is deemed politically incorrect, the next day may be illegal.
The shirt seemed perfect to William Loyd.
William Loyd is the husband of Nikki Araguz Loyd, the transgender widow of a Wharton County firefighter who has fought for her deceased husband's benefits. He wore an American flag t-shirt to city hall Wednesday.
"I wore this yesterday and I decided I'd wear it again," Loyd said. "I felt like it fit."
What wasn't as clear to William Loyd as his clothing choice was the religion anti-HERO protesters used to back their argument.
"Give me one verse where Jesus said anything about homosexuality," William Loyd said. "Sure, there are some iffy sections in the Old Testament. I'll give them that."
Nikki Loyd said she didn't understand how people could protest against equal acceptance and call themselves Christians. Roberto Ruben takes the pledge of allegiance, and God, very seriously.
"We say that we are, 'Under God,'" Ruben said. "We are under the rules of God. I did not set the rules."
Ruben's shirt read, "For Equal Rights, But Against The Equal Rights Ordinance."
The first thing Ruben pointed out about the HERO is the legislation that allows transgender people to enter bathrooms reserved for the sex they identify with. To Ruben, biology is more important than mindset.
"I feel that I'm the president of the United States of America, but that doesn't make me the president of the United States of America," Ruben said. "Sometimes I feel that I'm a great baseball player, and I don't play. Feelings do not count, so we have to bring it down to reality."
Ruben said the HERO is against the word of God, the constitution and moral values.
That most of the protesters were hispanic, Ruben said, was because hispanics have higher than average moral values. The protesters did not come as a group; they did not come from the same church. Ruben said they were just "raising a common voice."
"This is going to be a domino effect," Ruben said.
Carlos Calbillo wanted to document it all.
The Houston native, with a button pinned to his shirt that read, "I need a HERO," got into the thick of the crowd of protestors to document it all. He took videos and photos with his cellphone. He said he was going to show them to the councilmen he said he is close to - Robert Gallegos, Dwight Boykins, Michael Kubosh and C.O. Bradford.
Film is nothing new to Calbillo. He said he was the first AV Director at Rice's Fondren Library. He remembers seeing Mayor Annise Parker when she was a student at Rice, pink hair and all, Calbillo said.
Calbillo said when the mayor was an undergrad, he talked with her about the theater classes she was taking.
With a sarcastic look of shock on his face, he said he would tell the protesters about the mayor's past.
"Can you imagine when they found out their mayor is a thespian?" Calbillo asked.
He recognized the irony in the similar spellings and sounds of thespian and lesbian. He didn't recognize the irony in his view points.
"I'm fixing to call immigration and have them all deported," he said of the protesters.
"This," Calbillo said as he gestured to the crowd, "is why I favor strong immigration."
The t-shirts and turnout were unimpressive to Abie Kupfer.
"This is all the Christians that showed up?" Kupfer asked, looking out at the protesters from the front steps of city hall.
Kupfer and his husband, Larry Dodgen, were married in California before California Proposition Eight was struck down.
The two men came from an upper floor of city hall to stand outside and watch the protesters. Their views on how to debate legislation differed from the protesters'.
Kupfer said he thought most of the protestors, many of whom he didn't think spoke English well, didn't fully understood the HERO. He said they just bought the apparel.
"It's not about wearing a t-shirt," Kupfer said. "That's why you don't see us out there. You see us in (city hall)."
"Thank God we live in a country where we can disagree," Dodgen added.
Dodgen thinks communication is important, especially with issues like the HERO. He said he'd rather the protesters come upstairs to express their views in front of city council members.
Dodgen said it's important that everyone feel comfortable within their community.
Asked if he felt comfortable in Houston, Dodgen said he'd twice been fired for being gay.
So is that a no?
"That's a no," he said.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.