By Fran Watson
I don’t want pro-HERO supporters to wake up on Wednesday and wish they had voted. Every single vote will count tomorrow. We are literally in a tie right now with HERO opponents—it’s that close.
I was born and raised in Houston, and I’ve lived here all my life—38 years to be exact. I take great pride in this city and I’ve worked my heart out to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), also known as Houston Proposition 1. HERO would prohibit discrimination based on 15 different categories: race, sex, gender, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion, veterans’ status, pregnancy status, marital status, family status, genetic information, age, ethnicity, and national origin. Tomorrow, Houston has the chance to pass HERO and become the last major city in America to ensure full protections for all its citizens.
The vote is historic. If HERO passes, Houston will be the largest city in the country to have passed a ballot initiative that provides a local solution to the problem of discrimination that includes transgender people.
But HERO is about much more than LGBT folks. The majority of discrimination claims (56 percent) filed with the city of Houston over the last year have been based on race, with 17 percent based on gender and pregnancy. The Gaslamp nightclub in Midtown has come under fire recently because it charged African-American and Latina patrons a cover while letting white customers in for free. The club’s spokesperson has admitted they let in only “beautiful” and “successful” people.
Under the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, there would be a local tool for folks who face discrimination, so they won’t have to make a costly and time-consuming federal case out of it.
HERO would protect Houstonians like Noel Freeman, a retired senior Airman in the United States Air Force who was denied a job in Houston simply because he served his country. It would also help people like me—I fall under three of the categories written into the ordinance as an African-American woman, a lesbian, and a person of faith.
The pro-HERO campaign is garnering more momentum than ever in these final days. The most prominent business leaders in the city, along with many national companies, have staked out a supportive position. Women business leaders came together at the Alley Theatre to emphasize why HERO is good for women, including their daughters and mothers. And Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans football team, retracted a $10,000 donation to the campaign against Proposition 1 after learning of our opponents’ misleading campaign tactics.
Now, it’s all hands on deck. Houstonians began casting early votes on Proposition 1 on October 19, but the biggest turnout will take place on Tuesday. Together with literally hundreds of volunteers in all communities, we are coordinating voter outreach, field operations, phone banking, and canvassing. It’s now up to each and every HERO supporter to get off the couch and vote on Tuesday.
Fran Watson is the faith director of Houston Unites, the campaign to pass Proposition 1.