Perhaps better than any of her predecessors, Houston Mayor Annise Parker knows that discrimination is a real issue for the LGBT community. She was a Past President of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, and her activism is remembered from civic protests to consultation in the landmark Lawrence V. Texas case. And of course, the mayor’s recent wedding to her long-time partner is still illegal in her home state, pending further court decisions.
Given this history, it was especially heartening to hear Parker, in her 3rd and final inaugural address as Mayor, pledge that the time has come to pass a comprehensive, LGBT inclusive Non-Discrimination ordinance (AKA Human Rights Ordinance) in Houston.
Other Houstonians say that it’s time as well. Texans Together Education Fund, an organization founded to increase civic engagement in underserved communities, has started a petition to get the ordinance passed, and whose members are actively lobbying to bring it forth to City Council. Unlike years past, Non-Discrimination has now mobilized Houston’s progressive community to the point where it will impossible for municipal government to ignore. And of course, Houston has a nearby example with San Antonio’s recent NDO, led by Mayor Julian Castro.
But it appears that even the planned ordinance for Houston will not include *direct* discrimination protections for those working in the private sector (which of course is the majority of the workforce). Here’s what Parker had to say on Houston Matters earlier this week…
Craig Cohen: When can we expect a comprehensive Non-Discrimination Ordinance that protects all Houstonians regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and will such an ordinance protect those employed in the Private Sector?
Mayor Parker: I hope to have it passed by the end of May. It will affect the Private Sector in as much as if they do business with the City of Houston. It will affect the Private Sector if they operate public accommodations or multi-family housing. But the first draft I’m working on does not apply to the Private Sector otherwise.
Why can’t this first version of the ordinance include private employment? In short, the answer is simple politics. Sources say the Houston ordinance will lose votes on Council if it affects private employers. It’s true that any step is a step forward, especially in these times of heightened contention in politics. But if a Council Member wants to allow discrimination to continue, they deserve to be put on record with a vote. Instead of protecting them, Parker and her administration should let them deal with the Progressive community’s ire. Texas Leftist cannot confirm at this time which persons are against equal protection, but if that information is ever revealed, it will surely be passed along via this blog. As for now, we’ll wait to see what develops this May.