HOUSTON - For the folks charged with keeping business, talent and investment flowing into the Bayou City passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has been pushed to the very top of a lengthy priority list.
"It is a concrete statement that this is a city that does not discriminate," said Bob Harvey Chief Executive of the influential Greater Houston Partnership.
Harvey says voters should understand the ramifications of rejecting HERO at the polls because they are dire.
"What we think would happen over time is that companies would stop choosing to relocate here," warned Harvey.
Harvey says that's because nearly all other major American cities have passed local anti-discrimination laws, a fact which renders communities that simply refuse suspect in the eyes of companies and workers for whom the protections are deemed essential.
"This is a litmus test issue on whether they are prepared to consider a city. The talent that they want to draw and attract into their companies consider this an important issue," said Harvey.
The campaign against HERO has tapped solely into concerns over granting transgender folks access to the bathroom of their choice.
Citing the experience of other cities, Harvey insists the safety objections are groundless camouflage for the more sinister goal of denying new, local protection for GLBT citizens.
"What people were really asking is that we remove sexual orientation and gender identity from the ordinance and frankly in 2015 it would be irresponsible to talk about a comprehensive anti-discrimination and not include those two groups," said Harvey.
Some business owners have expressed fear that HERO will open a Pandora's Box of expensive discrimination claims.
But Harvey and the partnership say those concerns are overblown because the allegations will be handled quickly and if verified result in relatively modest fines.