Today I read the following article and was dismayed at the lack of correct information and misconceptions it had about my beloved Houston:
This article gets a lot wrong about the “bathroom” issue in Houston. Since I live here and have followed this thing from the beginning, let me clue you in on what really is happening.
“Last year, during the debates leading up to the passage of the antidiscrimination bill, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is openly gay, issued subpoenas for the sermons of five pastors who opposed the legislation.”
No, that is not correct. There was no debate leading up to this bill, the fight was never about a complete antidiscrimination bill, it began as part of an “emergency” ordinance that stated transgenders could use whichever bathroom they identified with. And the subpoena issued was a mistake and was withdrawn. Here’s the ordinance (the pertinent information is on page 11 of the pdf, officially shown as Article IV, Sec. 17-51 (b))
Mayor Parker, several years ago, passed an ordinance unlawfully, declaring in part that anyone who “gender identifies” as a different sex may use the other bathroom in a public place – it was unlawful because she did not have the right to issue such an ordinance without a vote. She tried to get around the vote issue, knowing it would fail, by declaring it an emergency. So city council was sent a petition signed by tens of thousands of citizens demanding a vote. A law suit ensued between Parker and prominent church leaders, during which Mayor Parker, by her own admission, failed to read a subpoena before it was sent out that requested “all” sermons by all the preachers on the petition. She had not intended it to read that way – she was concerned the petitions were signed in the churches themselves and accused churches of forcing their congregations to sign – the subpoena was withdrawn.
A judge later determined that Mayor Parker had indeed overstepped her boundaries and a vote would be required; so the Mayor added the entire anti-discrimination clause to an ordinance about transgenders in the bathroom and tested it to see if that would fly. She then later removed the transgenders in the bathroom part that was her original ordinance, but added that businesses could not discriminate against people, based on gender, in any public facility – which would of course include going in opposite sex bathrooms.
The reason this ordinance failed, and the reason why it should not be a bellwether for the nation’s rights, is that Houston is very different in its thinking from most of the country. We are an entire city of people who believe that our government should not make laws for the sake of making laws. This is one of the reasons companies flock to Texas and Houston, because we keep our government at arms length in our daily lives.
There is not a problem here with transgenders in the bathrooms, therefore why make a law? I researched it and could find not a single arrest of a man for being in the wrong bathroom because they were a transgender, and gender protections already exist within our laws. I for one can attest that I have never once had my gender checked at the bathroom door in the mall or city hall, however should that become a necessity, let me know so I can bring some candles and soft music, perhaps a glass of wine.
Most Houstonians are reasonable and loving people. We do understand that a man dressed as a woman going into a men’s bathroom can be an invitation to a beating and none of us wish someone harm simply because of who they are. But we have to look at this from a practical standpoint: if a man looks, walks, talks and acts like a woman, how would I know that wasn’t a woman? What an awkward moment that would be, pointing a finger at someone and accusing them of being a man, only to find out they were really just a manly woman (the Austin Power’s movie comes to mind here).
And while the more extremist religious groups have pounced on the “no men in women’s bathroom” slogan, the majority of us are more reasonable and frankly do not care about a transgender in the bathroom. We also don’t care who you are, man or woman; if you get caught peeping at our little girls through the stall door, you are leaving that bathroom with a black eye or worse. And we are also responsible and cautious enough about our children to know that you never send a little girl or boy into the bathroom by themselves in a public location.
Honestly men, there isn’t that much to see in the women’s bathrooms. Despite your fantasies, we women are not in there having slow-motion pillow fights in our underwear. There’s a lot of flushing behind stall doors, hand-washing and lipstick checking and that’s about it. Sorry I ruined your whole fantasy thing there.
So we have to beg you nation, please do not use Houston’s thumbs-down to the vote as a bellwether for the equality movement. We didn’t pass it, but it was because of that one little phrase added at the bottom of a basic equality clause by a mayor that is determined to leave a legacy. But she overdid it, that’s all.