Houston voters reject HERO

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Voter reject HERO ordinance (KTRK)

An ordinance that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston failed to win approval from voters on Tuesday.

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was rejected after a nearly 18-month battle that spawned rallies, legal fights and accusations of both religious intolerance and demonization of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The AP called the race early, with only 30 percent of the precincts reporting. But from early on, 62 percent of the votes were tallied against the controversial ordinance and the gap wasn't shrinking.

Democratic Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is gay, took the stage Tuesday night and addressed the results.

"No one's rights should be subject to a popular vote. It is insulting, it is demeaning, it is just wrong. This is a campaign of fear mongering and deliberate lies, deliberate lies. This isn't misinformation, this is a calculated campaign of lies designed to demonize a little understood minority and to use that to take down an ordinance that 200 other cities across America and 17 states have successfully passed and operated under," Parker said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who's been vocal about his opposition to the ordinance, also quickly reacted to voters' decision.

"Voters in Houston showed values still matter, and they were clear in their opposition to Proposition 1. I applaud the community leaders and pastors in Houston for organizing a strong effort to defeat this measure," Abbott said in a prepared statement.

Supporters of the ordinance had said it would have offered increased protections for gay and transgender people, as well as protections against discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion and other categories.

Opponents of the ordinance, including a coalition of conservative pastors, said it infringed on their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality. But in the months leading up to Tuesday's vote, opponents focused their campaign on highlighting one part of the ordinance related to the use of public bathrooms by transgender men and women that opponents alleged would open the door for sexual predators to go into women's restrooms.

Democratic Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is gay, and other supporters of the ordinance had called this "bathroom ordinance" strategy highly misleading and a scare tactic.

The ordinance was initially approved by the Houston City Council in May 2014 but a lawsuit to have residents vote on the measure eventually made it to the Texas Supreme Court, which in July ordered the city to either repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot.

Tuesday's referendum drew attention from around the nation, with the measure getting high-profile endorsements last week from the White House, high-tech giant Apple and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. The ordinance also had received support from other members of Houston's religious community.

Campaign for Houston, which fought the ordinance, said opponents included a diverse group of individuals, such as pastors from all denominations and local and state elected officials.

On Monday, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott had tweeted his support for opponents, saying, "HOUSTON: Vote Texas values, not HillaryClinton values. Vote NO on City of Houston Proposition 1. No men in women's bathrooms."

The Associated Press contributed to this report
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