Houston City Council delays vote on controversial Equal Rights Ordinance

HOUSTON - There are new developments in the much-talked about Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston. City Council Wednesday decided to delay voting on the controversial main item, but did vote on amendments to the ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would extend a city ban on discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender citizens in housing and employment. The discussion has also focused on where transgendered people would be allowed to use the restroom.

The delay was a disappointment for some in the GLBT community.

"A lot of people in my community are really feeling hurt by what happened today," said Monica Roberts, with the Black Trans Woman Network. "It really offends me that the haters won today. Our opponents won by getting a delay." 

However, Mayor Annise Parker says she wants to get the process right rather than rush it through the process.

The mayor says she remains committed to getting the ordinance pass and offering protection to many of Houston's most vulnerable groups.

"It is personal to me because I know the persons who are facing discrimination - what they're going through hurts," says Mayor Parker.

Conservative church groups say the mayor and council members who support the ordinance are trying to trick people into believing the removal of the "bathroom clause" will make the policy more acceptable.

"I'm happy there is a delay. I wish the ordinance would go away completely," said Max Miller, president of the Baptist Ministers Association.

Opponents say the changes in the ordinance would still allow transgender people to use a public restroom based on sexual identity, which they claim would put women and children at risk.

"The mayor should have anticipated these problems and she should have called all groups to the table to talk about it before we got to this point," said Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church.

While council is delaying voting on the big issue for at least another two weeks, they did vote Wednesday morning on amendments to the Equal Rights Ordinance.

Council members passed an amendment that would apply the ordinance to companies with 15 or more workers, rather than 50. Also council passed an amendment to make sure it would not interfere with senior or veteran discounts.

The big package of the Equal Rights Ordinance will go to vote on May 28.

Parker says Houston is the only major city that doesn't have an equal rights ordinance. She has worked on this issue for months and hopes to get it passed in some form.

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