A proposed equal rights ordinance in Houston has failed by a wide margin. The ordinance had similar language to anti-discrimination laws in place in most other major cities. But gay rights opponents were able to defeat it by falsely claiming it would allow sexual predators to roam freely in women’s bathrooms.

Some 61 percent of voters voted against the measure, which was worded this way:

“Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?”

About 39 percent of voters were in favor of the measure, which, as you can see, is not about letting rapists and child molesters into the ladies room. But groups like the anti-gay, anti-trans Campaign for Houston made it just that: a claim that failing to discriminate against trans people is the same as giving them free reign to molest people. Here’s the charming ad they ran, trumpeting, “Protect women’s privacy. Prevent danger.”

Mayor Annise Parker, Houston’s first openly gay mayor, was a strong proponent of the bill. She denounced the Campaign for Houston ad as “fear-mongering:”

Both former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Ted Cruz were fans of the bill, hungrily sniffing around it for signs that shouting about it could possibly make them president. Theybill’s local supporters won an important political point when Parker’s administration subpoenaed the text of sermons from several local megachurches, to see if they were illegally telling their congregants to vote against the bill from the pulpit. That portion of the subpoena was ultimately rescinded; Parker told Rolling Stone Tuesday that even her mother, a Fox News fan, was upset:

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“My mom, who watches FOX News, I hate to admit, called me and said, ‘Annise, what are you doing to the pastors?’” Parker recalls. “They implied was that we had subpoenaed sermons from every pastor in the city of Houston on everything they had ever said about homosexuality, which was just bunk.”

And today, in certain corner, joy reigns. “Perverts Lose in Houston,” Breitbart exulted. Others expressed relief that “men in dresses” would be kept in their place:

At a rally last night for the bill’s supporters, Parker promised “I guarantee that justice in Houston will prevail. This ordinance, you have not seen the last of. We’re united. We will prevail.”


Contact the author at anna.merlan@jezebel.com.
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Houston Mayor Annise Parker, left, speaks with actress Sally Field, right, and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, at a fundraiser for the bill, October 28, 2015. Photo via AP Images