Think the battle for LGBT rights is over? We won? Think again, grasshopper. Y’all ain’t been down to Texas much, I’m thinkin’.
Among the political signs jammed into the grass outside a polling station in this city’s South Park neighborhood stands one placard bearing an unusual slogan: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”
The statement, which is also emblazoned on T-shirts and conveyed in ominous television ads, has become a rallying cry for opponents of a measure designed to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and one of its most diverse.
The campaign to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, has become a priority for national gay rights groups and the city’s gay mayor — as well as for local business leaders, who fear an economic backlash similar to the one that hammered Indiana earlier this year if it is not adopted. But with an election set for Tuesday, polls show voters are divided on the measure — and some analysts are predicting defeat.
One reason, they say, is the provocative claim that the measure would permit “any man at any time” to enter a women’s bathroom “simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Opponents have dubbed the measure “the bathroom ordinance.”
“Houston voters do not want men in their women’s bathrooms,” said the Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors’ Council. “It’s an invasion of privacy, an invasion of a safe space for women and girls.”
It’s also completely untrue, supporters of the measure say. They accuse Welch and others of fearmongering, noting that the ordinance would not only protect the rights of transgender people, but also challenge discrimination on the basis of race, sex and a dozen other factors, including military status.
The sad thing is that the bullshit right wing playbook hasn’t changed at all in the eight years since the “shower nuts” in Montgomery County spouted pretty much identical nonsense in opposition to the transgender civil rights law here. And in case you think I’m being unfair with the name, their website here was called “notmyshower.net.” Yes, really.
The interesting - and encouraging - change since 2008 is the fact of the business community being on the side of civil rights. It’s not enlightenment, I think, but the realization that public opinion is now on the side of LGBT equality. And businesses don’t want to lose customers. No matter the reason, it’s good to have new allies.
But the fight isn’t over, not by a long shot.