What Does the Defeat of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance Mean for the City?

“We saw that the opponents of HERO came out very early and framed this is a public safety issue, as opposed to framing it as an anti-discrimination issue.”

By Rhonda FanningNovember 4, 2015 10:54 am| ,

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – HERO – after all the noise, the ads, and tweets, nothing has changed in Houston Texas …or has it?

Annise Parker, the outgoing mayor of Houston, laments the failure of the so-called HERO ordinance.

“I fear that this will have stained Houston’s reputation as a tolerant, welcoming global city and I absolutely fear that there will be a direct economic backlash as a result of this ordinance going into defeat,” she says in a speech after the decision.

Celebrating its defeat, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick: “I’m disappointed that the mayor could not be gracious tonight… the people of Texas spoke up in Houston and made it very clear this is not the kind of city that they want to live in.”

In the end, the equal rights proposition was rejected by 61 percent of voters in Houston.

Brandon Rottinghaus, associate professor of political science at the University of Houston, has been tracking the twists and turns of this law closely.

On Mayor Parker’s influence on HERO: 

“I honestly thought that seeing that the ordinance was in trouble that Houston voters would steer into the skid, that they would come out and vote in favor of HERO and making the city what Annise Parker believed it to be, but that clearly didn’t happen,” he says.

On the potential economic backlash: 

“There’s a hardening effect of these kinds of issues that precipitates to the board rooms and to the living rooms of America, perhaps the rest of the world, when people have to make decisions about where to put their conference, where to hold their convention, where to go to visit to enjoy some ballet or good food,” he says.

On Houston as a politically progressive city:

“I think that there is a fear that amongst, certainly Democrats, that Houston as the next possible foothold in turning the state blue, simply isn’t ready for that step,” he says.

“The fact is that you saw some interesting coalitions develop here. You have African-Americans, who are more religiously oriented or socially conservative on these issues; Latinos who are ambivalent or perhaps leaning ‘no’ on some of these hot-button religious issues, so there is a coalition problem for Democrats.”

On how citizens of Houston voted: 

“The framing issue is critical. We saw that the opponents of HERO came out very early and framed this is a public safety issue, as opposed to framing it as an anti-discrimination issue.”

“The fact that we saw such a great margin of defeat for HERO shows that there individuals who were in the middle, who were not just the kind of rabid, come-out-to-vote Republicans that were activated, persuaded by that framing.”

Listen to the full audio in the player above.