by Travis Weber
November 2, 2015
On Tuesday, November 3, Houston voters will finally be able to go to the polls and decide — under Proposition 1 — if they want the city’s controversial “Equal Rights Ordinance” (ERO) to be law.
Hopefully the voters will get a fair shake at the polls this time around, and this event will mark the end of the saga of the ERO’s tortured history, exacerbated and prolonged by its supporters’ attempts to cram it down the throats of Houstonians who simply don’t want it.
After Mayor Parker imposed her sweeping, religious liberty-trumping ordinance on Houston last year (and interfered with private church affairs by issuing an expansive subpoena for some pastors’ writings and communications), Houston area residents pushed back and rightly demanded a vote on the matter.
Yet the mayor wasn’t about to let that happen, and tried to declare petition signatures invalid to keep the question off the ballot.
Thankfully, the Texas Supreme Court earlier this year vindicated Houstonians’ right to vote when it issued an opinion ruling that Mayor Parker’s administration had violated the law and the City Council must either repeal the ordinance within 30 days or put it on the ballot this coming November. The Council chose to put it on the ballot.
Yet the City Council still resisted the Texas Supreme Court, attempting to confuse the voters by asking them to vote “yes” to repeal the ordinance. The Council’s obstinacy again forced the Texas Supreme Court to get involved and reject this contorted language. The Court held that the Houston City Charter clearly requires the ordinance be put to an up or down vote — a “yes” for the ordinance and “no” against it.
Proposition 1 is infected with a host of problems. First, it suppresses religious liberty significantly. Should the ordinance become law, it will drastically increase the reach of government into private religious conduct and result in a less free society. Indeed, the tentacles of government will intrude into a variety of private conduct — religious and non-religious — under Proposition 1.
Moreover, the ordinance is a solution in search of a problem; there is no systematic pattern or record of the problems it claims to fix.
Finally, there are simply all sorts of privacy and other concerns on the question of who will be able to use what bathroom under the ordinance. The last thing anyone in a major city should want is to alter the law on such a matter before calm, cool, and objective consideration.