Harris County expands anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, identity

Members of the Harris County Commissioner's Court meet in downtown Houston on June 26, 2019. (KPRC)

HOUSTON – Harris County commissioners voted Tuesday to expand the county’s anti-discrimination policy to include both sexual orientation and sexual identity.

The policy, which covers the employment of people by the county government, already prohibited discrimination based on race or religion. The 3-2 vote added the new provisions to the policy.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said the vote sends a message.

“We may be deep in the heart of Dixie, we may be in the reddest of the red states, but we’re sensitive,” Ellis said. “We’re inclusive. We want people to be who they are. We don’t care who they love, we care about the quality of their work.”

Opponents argued that the new standard would open a “floodgate” of litigation.

In addition to Ellis, County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia voted for the measure. Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle voted against it.

A second measure submitted by Cagle that would expand the policy to prohibit harassment of all employees was referred to the county’s legal department for review.