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Wednesday, April 17, 2024 — Houston, TX

HERO would directly impact all of us

10/29/15 7:49am

On Nov. 3 Houston will decide whether it will maintain its status quo as the only city of its size without an equal rights ordinance that goes beyond the protections of federal law. I believe the passing of HERO, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, is crucial to the economic development of Houston and the protection of Houstonians from discrimination.

HERO was drafted and passed by Mayor Annise Parker and the City Council in 2014 with support from 80 percent of elected officials in Houston. However, the bill was then appealed and brought to the Texas Supreme Court which ruled that it had to be voted on by Houstonians or repealed by the City Council.

This goes beyond being a political issue. HERO protects Houstonians from discrimination in business, housing and employment. However, contrary to the beliefs of the opposition, the protected group is not limited to transgender women who want to use a women’s restroom. In reality, Hero outlaws discrimination based on the following: sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military service, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity and pregnancy. In Houston, a woman in the process of getting divorced could be fired by a boss whose religious beliefs disapprove of divorce. A veteran could be blocked from purchasing an apartment based on his or her service to our country. A lesbian woman could be turned down for a job because of her sexual orientation.

If HERO fails to pass it will also have devastating consequences on the Rice community. Rice is a diverse campus and HERO would protect many of our students and faculty from discrimination. Many of our current students would face the reality of finding work and housing in a city where they are not guaranteed they will be treated fairly. In addition, the Rice experience is made stronger by our diverse and talented student body. Without HERO, many students who would add to our community may not even consider coming to a school in a city that doesn’t treat them as equal to their peers based on an arbitrary and uncontrollable classifications of worth. HERO would impact all of us directly. Even if you won’t suffer from discrimination, your classmates, professors and friends will.

For Houston, HERO will have a long-term impact on the city’s viability as a future global financial and technological powerhouse. More than 1,200 Houston businesses have signed on in support of HERO. In addition, many major corporations located in the city have said they would relocate or consider relocating their businesses out of the city if HERO fails to pass. In order for it to become the economic power it has the potential to be over the next twenty years, Houston needs to become a welcoming environment for all of the most qualified businessmen, lawyers and engineers. Without HERO, the future of Houston’s economy looks far bleaker and the promising future of the largest city in the southern United States vanishes with the rights of many of its citizens.

The main opposition to the bill has presented HERO as an ordinance that would lead to men dressing up like women, entering women’s bathrooms and committing sexual assault. This is a ridiculous argument for two reasons. First, sexual assault is already illegal and would continue to be so under HERO. A sexual predator won’t be stopped by a door, however, a law-abiding transgender Houstonian will if HERO doesn’t pass. This bill will allow transgender women to use the bathroom they believe they were born to use. However, HERO is so much more than just “the bathroom law.” HERO will protect 14 other groups from discrimination in everyday life, it will bring will bring Houston into the 21st century and it certainly won’t have any effect on the safety of our bathrooms.

The scariest part about this election is that it is going to be very close. Houston’s voter turnout hovers around 20 percent in mayoral elections. That means that with a mobilized effort, the “No on Prop 2” movement may win. The last several polls have showed the vote within the margin of error or HERO with a marginal lead. If you are registered to vote in Houston, please make your voice heard on Nov. 3.

This is not a political matter. This is a matter of human rights. This is a matter of equal opportunity. This is about the future of Rice. This is about the future of Houston. Vote Yes on Prop 1.

Maurice Frediere is a Duncan College freshman.


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