By State Representative Sylvester Turner
I support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) because it helps ensure that all Houstonians have a fair opportunity to earn a living, meet their obligations, provide for themselves and their families, and build a better life.
HERO protects everyone from discrimination–whether based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.
Yet, it appears that Houstonians will vote this November on whether we should repeal HERO to exclude one group of people–our neighbors, co-workers, friends, or family members who happen to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender–from our nondiscrimination laws.
When I build a road, everyone gets to walk on it. That’s why I will vote against the repeal.
Houstonians are proud that our city is the most diverse major city in America. It makes us strong, we say, that our city is full of people with different backgrounds and different experiences that shape our views of the world.
Diversity, however, does not need to be divisive. We won’t defeat the repeal of HERO at the ballot box by calling opponents of the ordinance names. We will defeat the repeal of HERO by uniting Houstonians behind the common values that bind us together as human beings.
I have faith in Houston and in Houstonians. Some of us are Democrats, some are Republicans, and some are neither. We are middle class, rich and poor, old and young, straight and LGBT. We come in many colors and from many backgrounds.
But, in so many ways, we are all the same. We all have families. We all have core values. And we all want to build a city that will give our young people a brighter future.
We can accomplish that by bringing our people together and keeping our focus on the greater good. I don’t believe in my heart that Houstonians want discrimination. It’s our job to have honest conversations with our friends, neighbors, and colleagues and explain why HERO helps move Houston forward as a city of opportunity and freedom, where people who work hard and meet their responsibilities have the chance to get ahead.
I support HERO because it will provide a local remedy the next time a state district court judge or players from our Dynamo professional soccer team are turned away from a nightclub because of the color of their skin; the next time a Houstonian wearing a turban is refused admittance to a business otherwise open to the public; and the next time a case manager for homeless gay or transgender youth is unable to place them into an apartment or shelter because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Yes, these things have actually happened in Houston–but they don’t have to. Other Texas cities, including Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio, have passed similar nondiscrimination laws that are working to make their cities stronger without generating any negative incidents.
Elections are by definition an “us versus them” fight. But we need to remember in the coming months that we’re all Houstonians and we’re all in this together.
Stand up for HERO. Do it with civility and with love in your heart. Let’s invite all Houstonians to walk down that road together.