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Houston passes ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

Last week, the City of Houston, Texas, passed an ordinance that prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Houston is the fourth largest city in the nation, with a population much larger than the entire state of Maine.  Under Texas state law and federal law, sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected characteristics.  Thus, for LGBT people who work in Houston, this new law provides important protections that they did not previously have.

The Houston City Council voted 11-6 in favor of the law.  Opponents and proponents of the law were very vocal in advocating their positions.  The City Secretary could not recall a longer list of speakers who wanted to testify before the Council in her six decades serving as Secretary.  Many opponents of the ordinance invoked their religious beliefs and they vowed to gather enough signatures to place a referendum on the ballot before next election in order to repeal the ordinance.

Houston’s mayor, Annise Parker, is openly gay and she has an openly gay son.  “This is not the most important thing I have done or will do as mayor, but it is the most personally satisfying and most personally meaningful thing I will do as mayor – not just for myself, but for my children and for all the other mothers’ children out there who have an opportunity to have redress if they are discriminated against here in the city of Houston,” Mayor Parker said.

Maine law has prohibited sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination for years but when those protections for LGBT Mainers passed, the law faced similar opposition. Opponents of the law successfully petitioned to have the law placed on the ballot for a referendum but the voters of Maine eventually chose to uphold the law.