As Houston City Council prepares to vote on a comprehensive Non- Discrimination Ordinance, the focus of the political debate has turned swiftly to Council Members themselves, as everyone postulates to determine how they plan to vote. But some Council Members are taking this time as an opportunity to hear directly from Houstonians on the issue.
In something of a surprising move, Michael Kubosh whom represents the entire city of Houston as an At-Large Council Member, held a Town Hall to specifically to discuss the ordinance. The meeting was organized by political activist and business owner Jenifer Rene Pool. As some will recall, Pool ran against Kubosh in 2013 for his current council seat, At-Large Position 3, but since the election, the two have spoken numerous times about the non-discrimination issue. Pool served as the moderator for the event.
One of those speakers was Monica Roberts, award-winning transgender activist and author of the Transgriot blog. She shared her personal story of being fired from her former employer because she is transgender. She also made an important point about how the lack of these protections could be lessening Houston’s competitive edge…
“Of the 10 largest cities in the United States, this city is one of two that does not have an ordinance to protect all of its citizens. Those others are cities that Houston competes with to get corporations and high-profile business deals.” said Roberts.
Mike Craig, the operations and planning director for Out and Equal Houston, made some related points in his comments…
“The city of Houston is in direct competition with cities all across the country for people to come here and work. The next generation of young workers… they expect that there is not going to be workplace discrimination. I want those people to know that they are welcome in Houston.”
Some also took the opportunity to question the Council Member about his past statements on equality. When he was running for office, Kubosh indicated on several questionnaires that he would not support a “San- Antonio style ordinance” that extended equality protections to citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. His reply to the questions was direct, saying that since the campaign, he has gotten to know more people affected by these issues and has a better understanding of them from personal level.
Former Council Member Jolanda “Jo” Jones also attended, and shared her insight on why the ordinance should be passed…
“It is important for the city to get on the right side of the Human Rights fight. To me, this is not a GLBT issue, it is a Human Rights issue.”
Throughout the Town Hall, citizens shared their stories, and worked hard to combat some of the “myths” that have overtaken the right-wing discussions in the equality debate. I did not ask the Council Member’s thoughts directly following the meeting, but the fact that it was even held is an indication of progress. Kubosh listened very intently to his constituents, and showed concern for their issues.
The next setting for this debate takes place on Wednesday, April 30th at City Hall, for a Quality of Life Committee meeting. It’s expected to have a large crowd, so if you plan to attend, get there early.