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A timeline of the Making of a HERO

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Return to The story of HERO

2013 City Election Cycle

Houston GLBT Political Caucus Candidate Endorsement Screenings: At the invitation of then-president Noel Freeman, Mayor Annise Parker attends the March 2013 Caucus meeting and discusses the issue with Caucus members. She agrees to put it on the agenda if the community can bring her 12 Council members willing to vote for it and publicly advocate for it. While some members leave restless, the meeting puts responsibility for the issue in the hands of the community.

From April–August 2013
At the April meeting, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus gives a comprehensive presentation of where the LGBT community stands with Council members, what the potential options for an ordinance are, and how the LGBT community can effectively advance all options that are on the table. Council members Mike Laster and Ellen Cohen attend and pledge support. In exploring the options, the Caucus begins researching and drafting suggested language for a potential nondiscrimination ordinance. The Caucus circulates the research to other Council members and community stakeholders and begins amassing support for the ordinance over the summer.

July 2013
During her reelection endorsement screening process, the Caucus asks the mayor, “If elected, would you be willing to introduce a nondiscrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?” She answers: “Yes.”

September 5, 2013
San Antonio passes a nondiscrimination ordinance, joining Austin (2004); Fort Worth (2000, and expanded to include gender identity in 2009); Dallas (2002); and El Paso (2003), making Houston the only major city in Texas without a nondiscrimination ordinance.

October 8, 2013
Houston Mayoral Debate: Ben Hall comes out against an ordinance. The LGBT community uses it to hammer him for two solid weeks in the mayor’s race. During this time, Mayor Annise Parker builds widespread support for her position in favor of putting an ordinance forward, helping her win reelection.

November 5, 2013
Date of Mayor Annise Parker’s reelection; City Council members who will be voting on HERO are elected to office.

November 20, 2013
Bolstered by the Windsor Supreme Court decision, Mayor Annise Parker announces she will begin offering benefits to employee same-sex spouses, advancing LGBT equality where she can.

Early December 2013
Mayor Annise Parker announces her plan to move forward with a nondiscrimination ordinance, and Houston city attorney David Feldman starts formal planning and development of language for HERO.

January 2, 2014
Mayor Annise Parker Delivers Inaugural Speech:
“To ensure the full participation of every Houstonian in the business and civic life of this great city, it is time to pass a comprehensive nondiscrimination ordinance that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the protections most Houstonians take for granted. It is time and we will do this.”

January 29–February 2, 2014
Creating Change 2014 Hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Task Force at the Hilton Americas in Houston: Over 4,000 LGBTQ activists and leaders from across the nation participate in five days of workshops, trainings, and networking. Roughly 450 Houstonians volunteer to host the conference, attending the workshops, strengthening community connections, establishing national contacts, and gaining advocacy skills. A critical network is formed.

February 9, 2014
Equality Texas polling datashows that a substantial majority of Houstonians support a fully inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.

March 2014
Houston Stonewall Young Democrats start a petition for small businesses to sign up to support a nondiscrimination ordinance. Texans Together starts a petition drive to build support for the ordinance.

March 31, 2014
Houston Matters: Mayor Annise Parker states that the first draft of the ordinance will not include private employment. Knowing that Mayor Parker will pass the most comprehensive ordinance possible, community members immediately begin lobbying their Council members and the mayor’s office to include private employment. The Creating Change network is activated; the importance of being able to mobilize quickly becomes instantly obvious. Lobbying will continue for weeks.

April 3, 2014
Mayor Annise Parker Delivers State of the City Address:
“Human Rights Ordinance — Houston is the only major city in the nation without civil rights protections for its residents. It’s time to change that so that the laws on our books reflect what Houston is …That is why this month I will send City Council a proposed Human Rights Ordinance. This ordinance will prohibit discrimination in city employment, city contracting, housing, and public accommodations (which include bars, restaurants, retail stores, and businesses that provide services to the public).”

April 8, 2014
Houston GLBT Political Caucus Publishes Results of Their 2013 Houston City Council Candidate Screenings: The Caucus had asked each candidate for Houston City Council the following question: “If elected, would you publicly advocate for and vote in favor of a non-discrimination ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, and public accommodation, that provides reasonable exemptions for small businesses, religious organizations, and federally exempt residential property owners?” The following candidates responded “Yes”: Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Dwight Boykins, Ed Gonzalez, Robert Gallegos, Mike Laster, Larry Green, Steve Costello, David Robinson, C. O. Bradford, and Jack Christie. (Ultimately, all of these council members except Dwight Boykins and Jack Christie kept their promise to the community and voted in favor of HERO.)

April 17, 2014
Texans Together, Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church, and local representatives from HRC hand-deliver 3,000 signed petitions to the mayor and City Council asking them to move forward on passing a nondiscrimination ordinance.

April 21, 2014
The first draft of the ordinance is released to the public.

April 25, 2014
Greater Houston Partnership’s Executive Committee met in special session and unanimously adopted support for the proposed City of Houston equal rights ordinance.

April 30, 2014
Council Member Cohen Holds a Quality of Life Committee Meeting:
• Public speakers are invited to comment on the first draft of the ordinance.
• City Attorney David Feldman gives a thorough presentation of the ordinance and a passionate personal statement on how proud he felt to have been involved in its development.
• City Council members hold a question-and-answer session and discussion. While Mayor Parker is away on city business, every other member attended for at least part of the meeting.
• Public comments begin, with most of the testimony being in favor of the ordinance: 49 comment in favor of the ordinance and only 19 oppose it in comments.

May 5, 2014
The second draft of the ordinance is released to the public.

May 6, 2014
City Council Public Session 1:
At Session 1, 72 comment in favor of the ordinance and only 19 oppose it in comments.

May 13, 2014
Mayor Annise Parker holds a 10 a.m. press conference with faith leaders and Greater Houston Partnership.

City Council Public Session 2: As HERO supporters fill the chamber, protesters outside City Hall lose their seats. At Session 2, HERO supporters outnumber opponents 106 to 40.

May 14, 2014
City Council votes on amendments, including the Gallegos Amendment expanding employment protection and the Cohen Amendment consolidating enforcement. Vice Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Davis introduces an amendment to remove superfluous language from the ordinance. City Council votes to delay the final vote for two weeks and releases the final draft of HERO immediately following the Council meeting.

May 19, 2014
Activists host a public information and training session at Legacy Community Health Services. About 100 people attend, including many who are new to political activism.

May 28, 2014
Consolidated City Council Meeting/City Council Public Session 3:
At Public Session 3, support for HERO is overwhelming. By the end of the day, 180 testify in favor of HERO, with only 27 against. Finally, by a voice vote of 11 in favor and 6 opposed, Houston City Council votes and passes the ordinance.

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Christina Gorzynski

Christina Canales Gorczynski is a community leader and CEO of First Person, a business consulting firm for socially responsible organizations.

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