Houston We Have a Problem! Four Things You Need to Know about the Suspension of HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance)

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July 24, 2015

The Texas Supreme Court today placed Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) on hold and ordered the City not to enforce it.

In May 2014, Judge Robert Schaefer invalidated petitions calling for a repeal of the landmark ordinance, or for the ordinance to be submitted for voter approval in the next general election. A jury found the petitions to contain fraudulent signatures.

Today's decision overturned the lower court ruling on procedural grounds and did not address the fraud that a jury found had contributed to the success of the petition drive.

Here are the four things you need to know:

  1. Before it was suspended today, HERO prohibited discrimination against Houston's 2.2 million residents on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity and pregnancy.
  2. HERO reflects Houstonians' values. Discrimination of any kind is inconsistent with our values in Houston and the State of Texas. For example, according to polling by Equality Texas, 63% of Texans support non-discrimination protections for all people based on their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
  3. Houston cannot afford to be one of the largest American cities without discrimination protections. Failing to protect all of its citizens and visitors on the basis of a diverse range of characteristics leaves Houston vulnerable to competition by other progressive cities and puts our businesses at a distinct disadvantage. As for persons who finally were given hope of fair treatment, will we ever know how many complaints were in process? What happens to their justice now?
  4. The Texas Supreme Court decision requires the Houston City Council to reconsider HERO, which it approved in an 11-6 vote. If the Council does not repeal HERO, the ordinance must be put on the November ballot for a public vote. To submit to a popular vote anti-discrimination protections for vulnerable minority populations is inherently unfair and contrary to our shared sense of justice.

Houston, we have a problem!