Houston, we have a problem


Aliza Kajani

[dropcap]P[/dropcap]roposition 1, or HERO, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, failed to pass on Nov. 3. Roughly 61% of voters opposed the ordinance and 39% supported it. So what caused our city’s voters to reject a measure to ban “discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?” Fear.

The idea spread that this ordinance would allow people, especially older men, to enter women’s bathrooms, fostering rape culture. This idea triggered a domino effect by which Houston voters grew increasingly fearful of the idea that a man could potentially follow a girl into a women’s restroom, making them feel unsafe. Personally I would agree… if that was at all what the ordinance was suggesting.

There is already a law in place in Houston that states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex… in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance.” This means it’s illegal for anyone to enter a bathroom of the opposite gender with the intentions of harming someone. We also need to consider the fact that rapists and abusers by nature are not people who choose to follow the rules in the first place.

There’s also the fact that Houston is the only major city in the United States that does not yet have an equal rights ordinance. This is extremely concerning considering that Houston is the most ethnically diverse major city in the United States, as declared by a 2012 report from Rice University.

This diversity puts Houston ahead of the curve in multiple ways. As a microcosm of the greater United States, Houston has become a place for people of all ethnicities to pursue their goals. Houston’s diversity also makes it a unique spot in terms of culture as people from different areas of the world are constantly bringing their customs, food, and languages to the city, enriching its neighborhoods. It doesn’t make much sense for it to be legal to discriminate against such large and beneficial portions of the city’s population.

What’s most shocking to me however, is the idea that without the Equal Rights Ordinance, it is legal in the city of Houston for someone to be fired or denied employment on the basis of their sexual orientation, skin color, or religion. These are things that they have no control over, so why do businesses have the right to deny them the means of earning a living based on these factors?

It is so important that we have a more educated voter population in issues such as the Equal Rights Ordinance. What does it say about our voters and our city if we can be so easily influenced by a false idea just because we haven’t done our research?