Houston officials speak out against latest anti-HERO ad

Thursday, October 15, 2015
Houston officials lash out at latest anti-HERO ad
The ad for a no vote on Houston's anti-discrimination law shows a man following a little girl into a bathroom stall. Now the city's mayor and police say are crying foul.

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- You've seen the ad urging a no vote on Houston's anti-discrimination law, the one where a man follows a little girl into a bathroom stall. On Thursday afternoon the police chief weighed in on it and called that a crime.

"Any man at any time could enter a woman's bathroom simply by claiming to be a woman that day," the ad says.

The ad goes further than just suggesting a transgender woman is protected by HERO if she just goes into a women's bathroom. No this ad shows what appears to be a man following a scared girl in to her stall.

Mayor Annise Parker was furious talking to television stations running the ad.

"This just doesn't happen," Parker said. "Everyone of you has an investigative journalist ... I will ask you go and talk to law enforcement, go talk to the chief of police."

So we did.

"On the face of it, that's a crime," Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland said.

Maybe now, but what if the HERO vote passes?

"Nothing will change about the violation of the law," McClelland said.

No matter how Houston votes, the chief said this guy in the ad who surprises this little girl in a stall is getting cuffed.

"I would expect my officers to follow the law, to arrest that individual, transport them to the police station, conduct an investigation and call the DA or city prosecutor," McClelland said.

The DA was slightly less certain it's a crime. Devon Anderson's office issued the following statement:

"We would evaluate a situation like this on a case-by-case basis. We listen to all the facts and then take the appropriate actions, if any."

Her opponent in next year's district attorney's race was more certain, calling it unlawful restraint at the very least.

"Just the act of following a child who is not related to you into a bathroom stall, closing the door and blocking her exit is a crime, and when it's done against a child, it's a felony," DA candidate Kim Ogg said.

The man behind the ad does not see it - even that last portion - as misleading.

"The last second of the ad makes it very clear that if we allow this type of ordinance to pass, we open the women's restrooms to sexual predators, voyeurs, people who are not in there to necessarily do good things," said Jared Woodfill with Campaign for Houston.

As we have reported before, HERO covers discrimination against more than a dozen groups. Before it was blocked by courts and put to a vote, allegations of racial discrimination were the most frequent complaint.