Tonight, after nearly nine hours of testimony from over 200 speakers, the Houston City Council passed a sweeping, LGBT-inclusive equal rights ordinance on an 11-6 vote. The measure was sponsored by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is a lesbian.
Prior to tonight, Houston, which is the largest American city with an openly LGBT mayor, was also the only major city in the country without civil rights protections for its residents.
The Houston Chronicle has the story:
The approval was greeted with thunderous applause from the audience, largely full of supporters, and chants of "HERO," for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.
"While much of the debate has centered around the gay and transgender section of the ordinance, it is a comprehensive ordinance," Parker said after the vote. "It is a good step forward for the city of Houston."
The measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.
The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.
David Badash of The New Civil Rights Movement reports that supporters of the ordinance -- many of whom wore red T-shirts -- vastly outnumbered opponents, whose objections were mostly religious in nature (i.e. they wanted "because Jesus" to remain a valid excuse for refusing service to queers in Houston).
But thankfully, most councilmembers rejected opponents' hyperinflated rhetoric and voted in favor of sanity, decency, and basic fairness instead. Congratulations, Houston, on taking this important step forward!
Image via Equality Texas.