In Houston, the men’s room is for men.
That was voters’ decision on Tuesday, when they voted down Mayor Annise Parker’s Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) by a margin of 3 to 2, rejecting the “anti-discrimination” ordinance that Parker, who is openly gay, had made a centerpiece of her administration. The law would have created new municipal legal protections for 15 classes, including those defined by “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” in “places of public accommodation” — language that was so broad as to include not just public toilets and high-school locker rooms but virtually every private business in the city. As Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan Anderson noted, with its nebulous definitions of gender identity and discrimination, the law would have been a ready tool with which to bludgeon employers, administrators, and others who had religious or moral objections.
Perhaps HERO would have been a less alarming proposition if Parker had not tried to impose it by petty, lawless displays of executive might. But its defeat surely had much to do with the fact that it was simply unnecessary. There was no discriminatory-public-accommodations crisis threatening municipal order, and Houston is no hotbed of anti-LGBT bigotry. Houston has elected Parker mayor three times. That does not mean the city is free of discrimination, but it contravenes the notion that voters’ rejection of this law is a sign of widespread hostility to gays and lesbians.
That should be the guiding principle for all levels of government. HERO was bad policy that endangered the conscience rights of employers and individuals. There is no place for that sort of coercion. The real heroes are the ones who voted it down.