HERO opponents in Houston going all-in on scare campaign as early voting begins

Early voting has begun in Houston as the city votes on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the non-discrimination law that the city passed in 2014 but a court ruled must be either repealed or ratified via referendum this year. The city-wide ordinance prohibits discrimination in housing, hiring and public accommodation across fifteen personal characteristics, including sexual and gender identity.

But opponents of the ordinance have mounted a highly-focused campaign highlighting one (false) narrative: that if HERO passes your daughter will get raped.

Literally:

From Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden:

Despite the civil rights ordinance’s extremely wide scope, an opposition group behind the ad — Campaign for Houston — calls it a “bathroom ordinance” and focuses on the argument that it should be rejected to keep women and girls safe. The 30-second TV spot began running on Houston-area stations last week, and reflects bathroom-focused messages found [in] the campaign’s other materials.

The ad is an escalation of similar ads run against HERO by other groups, like this cartoon-style ad from Texas Values Action warning that the non-discrimination law is both pro-rape and anti-business:

With respect to the latter claim, business groups in Houston overwhelmingly support HERO, with 44 business leaders taking out an ad in the Houston Chronicle encouraging citizens to vote for the measure:

HERO Business Ad Chron v2-FINAL by John Wright

[iframe src=”https://www.scribd.com/embeds/285948421/content?start_page=1&view_mode=scroll&show_recommendations=true” width=”100%” height=”600″ frameborder=”0″ scrolling=”no”]

Media Matters has spent far more time than they should otherwise have needed debunking the bathroom predator myth with respect to anti-discrimination laws that affirm trans people’s gender identity. In other Texas cities with similar protections on the books, going back to 2002, there have been precisely zero incidents of men going into women’s bathrooms “because they can” to sexually assault people under the cover of non-discrimination ordinances. It simply isn’t a thing, and HERO opponents are trying to make it one.

Support HERO, via GLAAD

Support HERO, via GLAAD

According to The New Civil Rights Movement, opponents of HERO have some ground to make up, as “a third consecutive poll found that a majority of voters say they plan to support the ordinance. The poll from KPRC 2 News found that 45 percent of respondents back Prop 1, 36 percent oppose it, and 20 percent are undecided.” There are two reasons for this. First, non-discrimination laws are good! People like them! So much so that they often think they already exist, even if they don’t! There’s a reason why a 12-5 majority Houston’s city council voted to approve HERO: it is a broad-based non-discrimination law that protects everyone, not just one specific group in one specific instance.

Second, calling an entire group of people rapists is ugly! And people don’t like it! Every time anti-HERO advocates insinuate that the bill is simply a backdoor for giving predators access to your children and nothing else, they dig themselves into a deeper hole with the general public, which doesn’t assume bad faith on the part of the anti-discrimination campaign. HERO opponents would have the public believe that the majority of city council and general public are pro-rape, and the voters aren’t buying what they’re selling because what they’re selling is gross and wrong and offensive.

But of course, this isn’t to say that the anti-HERO campaign doesn’t know what they’re doing. Off-year elections like this come down to who can turn out their base, which is exactly what these ads are designed to do. A 45-36 plurality doesn’t mean all that much if the latter group turns out out at twice the rate of the former.

So if you live in Houston, get your pro-equality ass out there and vote!


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Indigo

    It’s Texas. Why say more?

  • mf_roe

    Keep ’em poor, keep ’em dumb, keep ’em marked, keep ’em divided—-The Barons of Texas don’t need anybody telling them how to manage their herds.

  • MoonDragon

    What would those shrinking Texas violates do if confronted with McSorley’s in New York where men and women use the same bathroom? Maybe the women of New York are a hardier breed than the delicate flowers of Texas womanhood.

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