Proposed human rights ordinance stirs up emotions

A standing room only crowd gathered at City Hall to hear the details of a proposed human rights ordinance.

April 30, 2014 4:25:34 PM PDT
A standing room only crowd gathered at City Hall today to hear the details of a proposed human rights ordinance.

The ordinance, proposed by Mayor Annise Parker, would prohibit discrimination of any kind in places of public accommodation and with companies that employ more than 50 people. Religious entities like churches and synagogues would be exempt.

"The city is clearly behind the times," Houston City Attorney Dave Feldman said.

Saying Houston needs to catch up to the rest of the country, Feldman laid out the controversial equal rights ordinance to a packed City Hall, and immediately hit a wall of opposition from the Houston-Area Pastors Council.

"There's no need, it's bad public policy, just vote no," Pastor Dave Welch said.

If the ordinance passes and you felt like you were denied entry to a business based on your race or gender, for example, you'll no longer have to file a federal lawsuit, you'll be able to complain locally.

"Experience of no entry in places like bars, clubs and restaurants are humiliating," Houstonian Bobby Singh said.

Supporter say the equal rights ordinance will protect people in public places. Opponents have focused on bathroom use, as a major point of contention, saying a man can just identify as a woman and walk into that restroom.

"The imagery that I have in my mind is a grown man going to the restroom, next to a six-year-old girl, standing on side of her, using the restroom," Pastor Kendall Baker said.

Pastor Lura Groen says her husband, who is transgender, has no interest in ever using a women's bathroom with or without the ordinance.

"My husband, who is a trans, has a big, full red beard and male musculature. And for him to walk into a women's bathroom is a very awkward situation," she said.

City Council is expected to vote on the proposal in two weeks.

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