With HERO on the Ballot, Get Ready for Some "Bathroom Bill" Fearmongering

With Houston's non-discrimination ordinance set for a public vote, there are a few key things Houstonians should prepare for. Notably: fearmongering campaign ads. Specifically: Ads trying to convince everyone to fear public restrooms.

In cities and towns around the country, HERO equivalents have gone to the ballot, or have been up to a city council vote, and have sent residents into a bitter haze of disagreement, misinformation, and in some cases, paranoia. But while most, including HERO, are designed to protect people of every race, gender, age, religion, and ethnicity from discrimination in the workplace, at public businesses, and in housing, for some reason, dissenters are hung up on public restrooms. They appear to believe that heterosexual males will simply identify as female as an excuse to enter a women's restroom to peer at, harass assault your daughters and wives.

The transgender community and supporters of the equal rights ordinances even created a movement on Twitter called #WeJustWantToPee in response.

As Houston moves closer to voting season, it's not unlikely that we may see similar campaign ads against the equal rights ordinance. Following are examples of the ads on TV, radio, the web, and even on robocalls created to scare people away from nondiscrimination ordinances.

5. Gainesville, Florida
March 24, 2009

In 2009, 58 percent of Gainesville voters rejected an amendment to the city charter that would have dumped the part about civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Like many enemies of equal-rights ordinances, the main fear was sexual predators in bathrooms. That fear was depicted in a commercial by Citizens for Good Public Policy, in which a gross man follows a young girl into a women's bathroom. “On January 28, 2008, your City Commission made this legal,” it says. Just to be clear, the charter did not make it legal for sexual predators to follow children into bathrooms.

4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
Dec. 9, 2014

A reality star is partly to blame for Fayetteville voters repealing the Civil Rights Administration ordinance. Michelle Duggar, of TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, put in a robocall to the city's residents to warn them that this ordinance would affect the safety of women and children.

“I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls,” she said on the call. “I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space.” (Hear the full call here.) Another organization that supported the repeal released a video featuring a frantic-sounding woman telling the story of a mother whose daughter had, apparently, seen a “naked, fully exposed” man in a female locker room...in Olympia, Washington. 

3. Anchorage, Alaska
April 4, 2012

The Anchorage Equal Rights Ordinance—or Proposition 5—was rejected by 58 percent of voters in a municipal election in 2012. The group that heavily opposed the ordinance, Vote No On Prop. 5, sought to stir up more opposition to the law with cartoon depictions of transgender people. At businesses including a gym, gay bar, bookstore, and daycare, the regular-joe owners get arrested and jailed for not following what's portrayed as an outlandish law. The ordinance's supporters, One Anchorange, called the commercials “demeaning.” Here are links to the gay bar/bookstore and gym videos.

2. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
May 12, 2015

In May, the citizens of Eureka Springs voted to keep their non-discrimination ordinance in a close race. Up for repeal, it passed with 579 votes against 231. Some of the concerned citizens in the following video, however, likely weren't too thrilled. With background music more fitting for Pirates of the Caribbean, several opposed to the ordinance opened up about why they found the law offensive or horrible. It closed with a grandma nearly in tears, worried for her grandchildren to visit Eureka Springs because she might have to supervise them in the restrooms. The ad also features a pastor, Arca Lee Turner, who himself just happens to have been charged with three counts of rape.

1. Charlotte, North Carolina
March 2, 2015

And then there were the cities that literally called their non-discrimination ordinance “the Bathroom Bill." Still, the section that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice was taken out before the final vote, which still didn't quell the bitter opposition. After hearing public testimony, Charlotte City Council voted down this bathroom bill in a 6-5 decision. (In June, it passed a new ordinance.) One hundred twenty people went before the City Council members, given two minutes each, to state their case of support or opposition, the Charlotte Observer reported. Scroll down and listen here to a fearmongering radio ad put on the air by Pastor Mark Harris, which features a woman scared, predictably, of the bathroom. And listen to some of the testimony from opposition below.

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