SFGN’s “Speak OUT” is a weekly feature giving a regular voice to South Florida LGBT leaders. This week the LGBT community lost big in Houston with the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Is there anything that could or should been done differently? What lessons can be learned from this defeat?
The travesty in Houston, in which opponents to equality reverted to old-school scare tactics to secure a victory, is a strong reminder that we must remain vigilant in our continued struggle for total political and social equity. It is easy to blame this as one more embarrassment and black eye for the worst state in the nation – but these efforts are bubbling up in both red and blue states. The fact that it could happen under the watchful eye of openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker is especially hurtful and damaging for both sides.
— David Jobin, executive director of The Stonewall National Museum & Archives
HERO or the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was not lost but ripped from the people by a small set of angry ignorant people who used lies and diversion. Fifteen groups, from veterans and the disabled to the elderly etc. were to be included in this. Proof again big money and not people took safe living from those whom our government is there to protect. It pains me as a person of faith who believes in the sanctity of all human life that a few misguided people mislead voters against doing good.
— R. J. Hadley, community activist and blogger
As Broward’s first openly gay county commissioner, I successfully proposed amending Broward’s Human Rights Ordinance to include our transgender brothers and sisters. Many feared that my proposal would place the entire Human Rights Ordinance in jeopardy. It did not. However, the Houston votes shows us prejudice still exists and there is still much work to be done. Ken Keechl, former Mayor of Broward County 2009-2010
— Ken Keechl, noted trial attorney and LGBT rights activist
The vote by the people of Houston to repeal their equal rights ordinance is unquestionably a disappointing setback. Thankfully it does not reflect the rest of our nation, but it certainly serves as a clear reminder that the struggle for a more equal and just society goes on. This happened right here in South Florida back in 1977 when Anita Bryant championed the repeal of a similar nondiscrimination ordinance in Dade County. Just as we learned then, we can be disappointed, but for the sake of equality, we cannot afford to be discouraged. One lost battle in no way means our cause has been defeated. Rather it should strengthen our resolve to pursue equality with even greater determination and vigor. Just as our community turned the tide in South Florida I am confident we will do so in Houston and wherever else it may be needed.
— Justin S. Flippen, J.D., Wilton Manors City Commissioner
For the average American to get past any anxiety they have about transgender people being in their children's restrooms and locker rooms, you have to normalize the experience by giving them faces to go with the issue. We need ads in which transgender and cis-gender students, and their coaches, ask, "What's the big deal?" Despite the buzz about Caitlyn Jenner, most people don't fully understand the subject of being transgender. Ignorance is the parent of fear. We have a lot of educating to do. Houston isn't a defeat. It's a stepping stone.
— Brian McNaught, noted columnist, author and LGBT activist