Voters in Houston rejected a controversial ordinance for gay rights in the Texas city Tuesday.
Following a bitter yearlong battle over gay and transgender rights, voters repealed an anti-discrimination ordinance that had attracted attention from the White House, sports figures and Hollywood stars, the New York Times reported.
The measure had been passed in May by the city council but was in limbo after opponents succeeded in putting the matter to a referendum vote following a lengthy court fight.
One of the key reasons given for rejecting Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which was designed to protect the rights of gay and transgender citizens, was its opponents’ claims that it would give male sexual predators access to women’s bathrooms. The blunt message of “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” was plastered on signs and quoted during radio and TV ads during the hard-fought debate.
However, proponents described the referendum as an anti-discrimination measure to protect a broad range of citizens from the elderly to veterans. Similar to those passed in 200 other cities, it aimed to prohibit bias in housing, employment, city contracting and business services for 15 protected classes, including those based on race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity.
Supporters of the ordinance included President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Apple and actress Sally Field, who visited Houston last week to speak on behalf of Prop 1.
“It was about protecting our grandmoms, and our mothers and our wives and our sisters and our daughters and our granddaughters,” Republican opponent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said after the vote. “I’m glad Houston led tonight to end this constant political-correctness attack on what we know in our heart and our gut as Americans is not right.”
Meanwhile, Houston Mayor Annise Parker said: “This was a campaign of fear-mongering and deliberate lies. No one’s rights should be subject to a popular vote.
“This will have stained Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming global city,” Parker, who is lesbian, said, according to local station KHOU. “I absolutely fear there will be a direct economic backlash.”
Emotions regarding the ordinance ran deep, with some supporters suggesting that the repeal could jeopardize Houston’s selection as the host city for the 2017 Super Bowl.
If NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “would even suggest that the Super Bowl not be played here because we don’t want men in ladies’ bathrooms, then we need a new commissioner,” Patrick added.
Ultimately, Prop 1 failed by a margin of 62 percent to 38 percent.