Are Groups Protected By HERO Ordinance Already Protected?

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For the hundreds of thousands of Houstonians trying to figure out just where they stand on the controversial equal rights ordinance there is a new persuasive pitch from those trying to push the measure through.

"We looked into it and HERO is really a needed local tool to protect Houstonians against discrimination based on their race, religion, age, gender, military status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability," says Pastor Will Reed in the Houston Unites radio ad.

The message has drawn immediate fire from opponents as "untruthful".

Gerad Woodfill of Campaign for Houston says there's already plenty of anti-discrimination protection embedded in current law.

"Those are good and wonderful things and should be protected under the law. In fact, they are protected under the law, federal and state law," said Woodfill.

Speaking for Houston Unites, Fran Watson concedes there are indeed anti-discrimination remedies for most protected classes, but they are very difficult for most folks to access.

"There are a lot of people who can’t afford to hire a lawyer and take this to a federal lawsuit, but we have a local remedy here in Houston. They can go to the City and they can report this and there is accountability for the actors of discrimination," said Watson.

Fox 26 legal analyst Chris Tritico concurs saying for most victims of discrimination it's impossible to hire a lawyer and seek justice.

"That's expensive. It takes a long time and there are very few of those cases filed because you can't get enough damages to cover the attorney fees it takes just to file that case," said Tritico.

Both Tritico and Professor Peter Linzer of the University of Houston Law Center confirmed that gay and transgender people comprise the only groups on the HERO list of protected classes that currently have no federal safeguard against discrimination due to sexual orientation or identity.