HERO Decision: A Tale Of Two Cities

- As Houstonian's make their call on the controversial HERO ordinance, we offer a tale of two cities -the nation's fifth largest, Philadelphia and number three, Chicago.

'The City of Brotherly Love' has in-place an expansive equal rights law. It is a measure, like that proposed here, granting transgender folks access to the restroom of their choice.

'The Windy City' has an equal rights law on the books as well, but lawmakers there purposely left out transgender restroom access when they originally approved the ordinance.

Rice Political Science Chairman Mark Jones says that means the Chicago measure granted all the protections offered by the Houston proposal without treading on a political minefield.

"There is a bridge that [Mayor] Annise Parker crossed that Chicago Democrats did not cross," said Jones.

UH political scientist Brandon Rottinghaus says by including transgender bathroom access in HERO and rejecting the much safer "Chicago style", play decision makers led by the Mayor are taking a risky swing for the fence.

"Because Chicago went for something more modest and more gettable. Houston went for the big home run. That is a spectacular event when it happens, but it happens rarely," said Rottinghaus.

Pro-HERO business leaders warn that if the measure fails Nov. 3rd, Houston will face national blow back - potential boycotts, lost tourism and corporate re-locations.

Analysts believe that kind of fallout will likely be short-term because City leaders would rapidly put a new ordinance in place.

Jones calls it the third the option.

"If the (original) Chicago ordinance were on the ballot we wouldn't be having this interview because it would be a non-issue in this campaign," said Jones.

Since its initial approval without transgender bathroom access, the Chicago ordinance has been amended to reflect Illinois law according to Ed Yohnka, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

That provision allows people to use the bathroom reflected on their official state identification documents.

Yohnka says citizens of Illinois can legally change their gender without undergoing an anatomical transition.
 

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