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Opponents of Houston's equal rights ordinance file 50,000 signatures for repeal

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On Thursday, July 3, the “No Unequal Rights” Coalition submitted 50,000 signatures to the City Secretary seeking repeal of the controversial new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. A few hours later, Mayor Parker held a press conference, surrounded with several dozen supporters of the measure, to present her strategy to defeat the repeal effort.

The No Equal Rights coalition's press release describes states that it “represents a broad group of pastors, civic leaders, and citizens of every demographic and corner of Houston.” Spokesman Max Miller stated “We are very pleased and humbled by the outpouring of support and tireless work from citizens all over Houston, and in particular the incredible response from churches throughout he city of every color, size, and background. Given the difficult requirements of only allowing City of Houston registered voters to collect signatures and that every petition be notarized, to acquire over 50,000 signatures in this short time is an amazing achievement by the people of this city.”

Understandably, Mayor Parker presented a different view of the issue. She stated in her press release, “The Houston I know does not discriminate, treats everyone equally, and allows full participation by everyone in civic and business life....Since City Council approval of the ordinance in May, opponents and the uninformed have been spreading a lot of misinformation. Bathrooms have been the subject of the most heated discussion.” She stressed that there is no mention of the use of bathrooms in the ordinance. “Let's be clear, this in no way grants men the unfettered right to access women's bathrooms or locker rooms.” It is simply not true and I know Houstonians are wise enough to see through the misrepresentations and exaggerations.” She further stated, “HERO prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodations and housing 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.”

Following the press conference, opposition leaders gave responses. Reverend Louis Sidney, pastor of Saint Paul Missionary Baptist Church, summarized the traditional Biblical perspective on sexual conduct, stating that everyone is born as male or female as the primary means of human reproduction. The co-pastor of Iglesia Rios de Aceite, Reverend Dr. Herman Casano also criticized the Mayor's presentation in Spanish, stating that she used the tactic of promoting lies by mixing them with truths. But leaders of the LGBT community with personal experience on the issues refuted the pastor's statements. They agreed with opponents that public restrooms should be used by those of the designated gender. However, they asserted that gender identity is not always clear and that discrimination in Houston to members of the LGBT community was frequent.

The official text of the Equal Rights Ordinance is available on-line on the City's official website and a new cite called www.equalrightshouston.org

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