Downtown Houston (Pic: Henry Han)
American LGBT activists have been stunned by the rejection of an anti-discrimination bill in Houston following a vicious “trans panic” campaign.
On Tuesday, citizens in the Texan metropolis overwhelmingly voted to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which was backed by high profile figures such as President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
If approved, HERO would have banned discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, race and a host of other factors.
Most contentiously, the law would have allowed transgender people to use the public bathroom of their choice.
Anti-LGBT campaigners cynically warned that this would place women and children in danger from sexual predators, a baseless scare tactic that appears to have paid off, with around 62% of voters rejecting the law.
The measure was first passed by Houston City Council in 2014, but homophobic and transphobic opponents used the courts to force HERO, which they dubbed the “bathroom bill”, to be put up for approval by voters.
The Houston Unites coalition of LGBT and human rights organisations that campaigned in favour of the measure said in a joint statement that they were “disappointed” with the outcome, which they said was the result of “the ugliest of smear campaigns.”
“No one should have to live with the spectre of discrimination hanging over them. Everyone should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families,” said the groups.
“Although Houston won’t yet join the 200 other cities that have similar non-discrimination measures, the fight continues. We will continue telling the stories of Houstonians whose lives would be better off because of HERO – including people of colour, people of faith, veterans who have served our country, women, and gay and transgender people,” they added.