Texas Supreme Court Aims to Overturn Ordinance Protecting Houston Residents from DiscriminationBy Adam Polaski • July 24, 2015 • 3:50 pm
Today, July 24, the Texas Supreme Court issued a blow to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) Act, an ordinance passed in 2014 that protects people in Houston from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, military service, sex, race, ethnicity, age, marital status, disability, and other categories. The court ruled that the Houston City Council must either repeal the HERO Act or put the ordinance on the ballot for a November 2015 vote. The Court also immediately suspended enforcement of the HERO Act.
The ruling comes three months after a state district court judge found that HERO opponents failed to gather enough valid signatures to qualify for a repeal referendum.
Freedom for All Americans campaign manager Matt McTighe issued the following statement:
“It’s disturbing that the Texas Supreme Court is moving so aggressively to halt enforcement of an ordinance that protects so many people. This isn’t just an ordinance that protects LGBT people – it also covers discrimination based on military service, sex, race, ethnicity, age, marital status and disability, among others.
He continued: “At a time when so many Americans – Republicans foremost among them – are coming together to support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, the Texas Supreme Court is setting a dangerous precedent. The Houston City Council is elected by the people, and last year the Council voted in favor of these protections. The Texas Supreme Court should respect that vote and not endanger countless Houstonians.”
Freedom for All Americans also joined the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, Equality Texas, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Wins, Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal in speaking out against today’s order from the Texas Supreme Court. The group of organizations noted in a statement:
“HERO embodies Houston values, and we are confident that the voters will uphold it should it end up on the ballot this fall. The fact that enforcement of the ordinance has been suspended, despite it being passed by the City Council, places at risk Houstonians who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. HERO currently protects 15 different classes, including sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity and pregnancy—in employment, housing and public accommodations.
The statement continues: “Houston cannot afford to be the one of the largest, most culturally diverse and business-friendly cities in the nation without comprehensive anti-discrimination protections. Discrimination is bad for business. But we believe Houston voters will agree that everyone who lives in and visits this great city has the right to be free from discriminatory and unequal treatment.”