Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) was intended to provide protection for its LGBTQ community, and failed this past Election Day. A campaign shrouded with lies caused a striking majority to disagree with protection against “discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy”. The policy affording these protections had been put in place by city council, challenged in a successful lawsuit, which resulted in the removal of basic human rights by the vote. A travesty of justice like this is not unfamiliar to Californians (Prop 8, anyone?).

…it’s not Just Happening in Houston.

What is troubling about this to us, here at the LGBT Center Orange County, is that right now, signatures are being gathered for a ballot initiative that would not just eliminate the protections for LGBTQ guaranteed in AB1266, but proposes legislation that would enshrine discrimination. The “Personal Privacy Protection Act” would force individuals to use the bathroom that comports with their biologically-assigned gender in the name of privacy protection (though it’s unclear how this would be enforced without exceptional privacy violations). The proposed legislation stipulates that individuals would be subject to lawsuits if they do not comply. Instead of ‘simply’ voting down discrimination protections, the coalition “Privacy for All” is advocating for the discrimination of the LGBT community.

Because of low voter turnout for the 2014 gubernatorial race, fewer signatures are necessary to put such a measure on the ballot than were required for the initiative’s predecessor “Privacy for All Students”, which sought to overturn AB1266. It failed due to a large number of invalid signatures. There are lawsuits pending and one that has overturned thousands of signatures so that they may be counted.

If you are as disturbed as we are that what happened in Houston – and worse – could possibly happen here, contact Laura Kanter (laura.kanter@lgbtcenteroc.org) to join our task force. We are heartsick over having to fight a battle like this again, but we exist to champion the truth, fight discrimination, and solve real problems.