Weekly wrap-up of this week's major story.
A Look at State Laws Addressing LGBT Nondiscrimination
(AP) In the absence of a federal law banning discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people, there is a sharp split among the states, with some enacting such protections and a majority opting not to. According to LGBT-rights advocacy groups, here's the latest breakdown:
– 28 states have no explicit statewide protections for sexual orientation and gender identity: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming.
– 17 states and the District of Columbia prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington.
– Three states prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations: New Hampshire, New York, Wisconsin. The laws in these states don't encompass gender identity. However, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is issuing an executive order that will soon extend protections to transgender people.
– Massachusetts prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing and prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in public accommodations. There's an effort underway to extend the public accommodation protections to transgender people.
– Utah prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in employment and housing. Its law doesn't cover public accommodations.
Showdown in Houston over LGBT Nondiscrimination Ordinance
(AP) After a drawn-out showdown between Houston's popular lesbian mayor and a coalition of conservative pastors, voters in the nation's fourth-largest city will soon decide whether to establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people.
Nationwide, there's interest in the Nov. 3 referendum: Confrontations over the same issue are flaring in many places, at the state and local level, now that nondiscrimination has replaced same-sex marriage as the No. 1 priority for the LGBT-rights movement.
"The vote in Houston will carry national significance," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT-rights group. She noted that Houston, with 2.2 million residents, is more populous than 15 states.
The contested Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a broad measure that would consolidate existing bans on discrimination tied to race, sex, religion and other categories in employment, housing and public accommodations, and extend such protections to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.
The outcome is considered uncertain. Two recent polls commissioned by Houston TV stations showed supporters of the ordinance with a slight lead, but each poll indicated that about one-fifth of likely voters were undecided.
Opponents contend the ordinance would infringe on their religious beliefs against homosexuality. Copying a tactic used elsewhere, they also have labeled it the "bathroom ordinance," alleging that it would open the door for sexual predators to go into women's restrooms.
"Even registered sex offenders could follow women or young girls into the bathroom," says an ad produced by Campaign for Houston, which opposes the ordinance.
The measure's supporters denounce these assertions as scare tactics, arguing that such problems with public bathrooms have been virtually nonexistent in the 17 states that have banned discrimination based on gender identity.
NFL Owner Rescinds $10K Opposition to Nondiscrimination Law
(AP) Houston Texans owner Bob McNair on Friday rescinded a $10,000 donation to conservatives hoping to repeal nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgendered residents in the city, saying the campaign made "unauthorized statements" about his beliefs.
McNair, a major Republican political donor, didn't specify what comments made by the Campaign for Houston caused him "great dismay." Nor did his statement, released through the Texans, denounce the aims of the group that has sought to rally voters with a "No Men in Women's Bathrooms" slogan.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, known as HERO, makes no reference to public bathrooms and supporters say the claim is designed to mislead voters ahead of the Nov. 3 referendum.
"Campaign for Houston made numerous unauthorized statements about my opposition to HERO in print, broadcast and social media - including attributing certain statements of belief to me," McNair said. "Their actions and statements were never discussed with nor approved by me."
Jared Woodfill, a spokesman for the campaign, said he did not know what the NFL owner was referencing but said the money would be returned.
"We've never spoken for him. We don't speak for him. We are just thankful for the support he gave us," Woodfill said.
Former Houston Astros star Lance Berkman also opposes the ordinance and has filmed an ad for the campaign.
The ordinance, passed last year by the Houston City Council, bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the nation's fourth-largest city. It aims to protect gay and transgender people against discrimination in employment and public places.
Conservative activists said voters, not councilmembers, should decide whether Houston has such an ordinance and succeeded in a petition drive to put the question on a ballot. Mayor Annise Parker and other defenders of the law say a repeal would damage the reputation of the city, which hosts the 2017 Super Bowl.
McNair said he doesn't tolerate discrimination of any kind and believes the city could rewrite a stronger ordinance that would give protections for "all Houstonia