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Activists: Timing Is Right for Nondiscrimination Vote in Houston

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Fairness Works Houston, a newly formed community-based organization, met February 25 to discuss a city charter amendment to be placed on the November 2012 ballot that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The city charter amendment would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations on the basis of age, race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, disability, marital status, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or physical characteristic.

Bryan Hlavinka, who was elected chair of the group at the meeting held at Montrose Counseling Center, said the proposed city charter amendment will be exclusively about discrimination and will not mandate same-sex-partner benefits to city employees. “This amendment will have zero-added cost to taxpayers,” he said.

Houston voters have rejected similar protections in the past, twice in 1985; in 2001, a city charter amendment was passed that banned domestic partner benefits.

A 2010 poll conducted by Equality Texas, a statewide LGBT lobbying organization, showed that Houston voters would support laws which prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression by a wide margin. The poll indicated 68.4 percent of voters would strongly support such legislation while 10.1 percent of Houston voters would somewhat support legislation banning discrimination.

“Houston is the largest city in the country that does not have some form of nondiscrimination protection for its LGBT citizens. Additionally, in Texas, Houston is the only major city that does not have nondiscrimination legislation. In 2012, it is legal to lose one’s job or housing for being LGBT,” Hlavinka explained. “Fairness Works Houston is working to change that.” fairnessworkshouston.com. —Nancy Ford

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