HOUSTON (CN) - Houston voters rejected an anti-discrimination measure Tuesday, a win for religious conservatives who claimed it would allow male predators posing as transgender to enter women's bathrooms; Texas' lieutenant governor called people who supported it "out of touch with common decency."
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was soundly defeated, with 156,882 people voting against it: about 60 percent of the ballots cast, according to an unofficial count by Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart.
Houston thereby maintains the distinction of being one of the largest cities in America without a law to protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination. The ordinance would have banned discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, race, age, disability and other grounds, in line with federal anti-discrimination laws.
The city's openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, who will leave office in January, seemed to take the defeat personally. At a pro-HERO gathering Tuesday night she said that 200 other cities have similar laws on the books and accused opponents of "fearmongering." Opponents called the measure "The Bathroom Ordinance" and adopted "No Men In Women's Bathrooms" as its slogan.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, cheered the vote at an election night rally at a Houston hotel.
"I'm so proud of the voters of Houston who turned out in record numbers. Two out of three, telling those who supported this, including Hilary Clinton, who wants to be the next president, that you're out of touch with America. You're out of touch with your own party. You're out of touch with common sense. You're out of touch with common decency."
Houston's City Council approved HERO in May 2014, but a repeal petition spearheaded by a Houston pastor and the former chair of Harris County's Republican Party gathered enough signatures to put it up for a vote.
After the city attorney found the petition had too many invalid signatures to qualify, opponents took the fight to court.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled on July 24 the city erred by not accepting the petition. It ordered Houston to repeal the ordinance or put it up for a vote.
Supporters of the ordinance claim Houston will lose tourism and convention business because the vote portrays the city as unwelcoming.
In other election news, Harris County voters approved four measures that will result in the issuance of more than $800 million in bonds to repair roads, improve and acquire parks, pay for flood control projects and build an animal shelter.