Houston voters reject Equal Rights Ordinance

Houston voters reject Equal Rights Ordinance

Houston voters rejected the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on Tuesday by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. Ordinance No. 2014-530 [text, PDF], known by its opponents as the “bathroom bill,” prohibited discrimination based on sex, race, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and other protected characteristics. The ordinance focused on protection in employment, housing, city contracting and business services but was mainly opposed for allowing transgender people to use bathrooms of their choosing. The Houston City Council initially approved the ordinance in May of last year, but a legal challenge forced the ordinance to require voters’ approval. Opponents’ concern was that sexual predators would pose as transgender individuals in order to access bathrooms. Supporters of the ordinance called this strategy “fear-mongering” and stated that the ordinance provided much-needed legal safeguards in one of the most diverse cities in the US.

Earlier this week US Department of Education ruled [JURIST report] that a transgender student in Illinois could have access to the locker room of their gender identity. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in July announced [JURIST report] a comprehensive plan to move in the direction of allowing transgender troops to serve in the military. Also in July Ireland passed the Gender Recognition Bill [JURIST report] to allow transgender people over 18 legal recognition of their preferred gender and changes in their birth certificate. In March Utah lawmakers unveiled legislation (SB 0296) [JURIST report] that balances religious rights and protections against LGBT discrimination in the workplace and housing. In July 2014 President Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In August 2013 California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill [JURIST report] into law protecting transgender public students, allowing them to participate in sex-segregated activities consistent with their own gender identity.