Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s signature ‘Equal Rights Ordinance’ (HERO)—which she has been tirelessly fighting for over the last 18 months—failed spectacularly last week, with 61% of Houstonians voting against it. But what killed the ordinance that seemed to be on a nonstop path to victory?

Of the defeat Parker offered more of her usual platitude-filled rhetoric, stating, “I fear that this will have stained Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming, global city.” This is the same mayor who has consistently rejected citizen-led petitions, subpoenaed pastors with whom she disagreed, and sent a tweet calling opponents “transphobes” in a myopic, heavy handed crusade towards a vague notion of social justice.

The mayor and other proponents voiced outrage that their rights were being subjected to a vote, but only once voters made their voices heard by shutting it down. When city council originally passed the proposition (11-6) months ago they were silent—even celebratory.

In a fit of hypocrisy, she also bemoaned the dubious “direct economic backlash” that her fabricated crisis would cause if her opponents won, while deafeningly silent about the direct economic backlash the City of Houston is facing as a direct result of the financial hole she helped plummet the city into.

Leading up to the HERO vote, the controversial ordinance garnered support from the liberal New York Times editorial board, President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other grow-government elites trying to tie their endorsement to the platitude-heavy, feel-good-measure.

The HERO campaign, ‘Houston Unites’, raised more funds, spent more money, and had more staff than the opposition— but was largely run by outsiders. The opposition campaign, Campaign for Houston, clearly had a message that resonated with voters, was run by Houstonians, and had a solid coalition of members of the religious, minority, and political communities.

Pollsters and Houston politicos say that the proponent’s lack of outreach to minority communities is what sealed the ordinance’s fate. Districts B and D—both heavily minority and liberal-voting areas—rejected the ordinance overwhelmingly.

Supporters of the failed ordinance are discussing creating a voluntary network of businesses that will choose to enforce the ordinance’s protections. Some restaurants across the city have drawn attention after highlighting their restroom options such as “Either and Or” instead of “Men and Women.”

The key difference between this and Parker’s approach is the word voluntary—these businesses are private entities choosing what they want to do in their place of business—not a rogue government increasingly interfering in its residents’ businesses through heavy-handed regulations, fines and intimidation.

Now, only a week after its defeat, Parker and some council members begrudgingly mention that there will be another push for the provisions in the ordinance, and supporters are even threatening to boycott the Super Bowl, which has since stated there are no plans on moving the 2017 game based on HERO failing.

The equal rights ordinance battle may have been won by Parker’s opposition, but Houstonians must stay vigilant not only at the polls, but also in council chambers if they value the rights that are constantly under attack by a renegade, politically intoxicated zealot-mob inside city hall.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


6/13/24 It’s Time to Dismantle DEI

- Texas Congressman files ‘Dismantle DEI Act’. - MS-13 gang leader arrested in Texas. - Texas joins lawsuit against new Federal Rule advantaging foreigners in US Agriculture.