Houston Voters Reject LGBT Ordinance That Raised Bathroom Privacy Concerns

By Susan Jones | November 4, 2015 | 5:41am EST
In this Oct. 21, 2015 file photo, a man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)

(CNSNews.com) — The people of Houston rejected an Equal Rights Ordinance that that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people, with more than 60 percent of voters saying no.

Conservatives noted that among other things, Proposition 1 would have allowed any man or woman to use any bathroom, based on their chosen "gender identity."

"While much of the debate focused on biological males using a woman's bathroom, many voters told us they understood this involved a lot more than bathrooms," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said after the votes were counted.

"The mayor's efforts to disenfranchise voters and subpoena pastors' sermons and private communications demonstrated this law was ultimately about silencing and even stripping away the livelihood of those who refused to yield their beliefs to this new morality."

Earlier this month, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, a lesbian Democrat, issued an unprecedented legal demand that several key pastors turn over sermons, emails, and text messages, even communications with members of their congregations, under the threat of fines imprisonment or both. The subpoenas were delivered to pastors who have spoke against Parker's LGBT ordinance.

The FRC called it political intimidation and an impermissible government intrusion into private religious affairs.

Perkins commended Houstonians for "courageously" standing up to the mayor and defending their freedom live according to their beliefs.

"Houstonians' religious freedom, freedom of speech, and the right to petition their government have won the day, but much more work remains to be done to safeguard these freedoms across the nation. No person should be punished by the government because of their beliefs," Perkins said.

Mayor Parker blamed the rejection of Proposition 1 on the "bathroom" campaign, which she called "fear mongering" and part of an effort to demonize the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"This was a calculated campaign by a small, very determined group of right-wing ideologues and the religious right, and they only know how to destroy and not how to build up," Parker told a crowd of more than 100 people at an election night watch party in downtown Houston.

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was initially approved by the Houston City Council in May 2014, but in response to a lawsuit, the Texas Supreme Court in July ordered the city to either repeal the ordinance or put it on the ballot.

The ordinance would have applied to businesses that serve the public, such as restaurants and hotels, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. It would have allowed residents to file a complaint if they felt they had been discriminated against based on the various protected categories. Religious institutions would have been exempt. Violators would have faced fines up to $5,000.

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 Clinton.

(The Associated Press provided some of the information used in this report.)

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