The Hateful, Ignorant Campaign Against Houston Equal Right Ordinance (HERO)

November 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On Tuesday, November 3, voters in Houston turned down the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). HERO would have banned discrimination against 15 categories of people (veterans, elderly, because of gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.) in public services and facilities. The hateful, ignorant opposition to HERO, orchestrated by well-financed Christian fascist Republicans, focused exclusively on depriving transgender people of the ability to use public restrooms. The following notes on this development were sent in by a Revolution correspondent.

  1. The defeat of HERO (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) is very bad, and a clarion call to Christian fascists across the country. It is significant that this resounding electoral defeat happened in Houston, a city which has one of the most diverse populations in the country, and which is overwhelmingly dominated by Democrats, rather than Harris County, or Texas as a whole, which is dominated by Christian fascist/Tea Party Republicans. In that sense the way the reactionaries took this on could provide a sort of “template” for similar battles they initiate elsewhere in the “culture wars.” Houston has an “out” lesbian mayor, but the pro-HERO forces did very little to counter the demagoguery, hate, and pure lies emanating from the anti-HERO forces (and did nothing close to matching the intensity, volume, and venomous passion of their opponents).
  2. HERO would have prevented discrimination against 15 categories of people (veterans, elderly, because of gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.) in public services and facilities. It mentioned nothing about allowing sexual predators into women’s restrooms. But Christian fascists successfully defined HERO as a referendum on “No men in women's bathrooms”—a preposterous distortion of reality, among other things— and plastered that message on stickers, signs, billboards, and TV ads, and successfully defined it that way in many, perhaps most people's understanding. It was, as the Houston Chronicle accurately editorialized, a “scorched-city campaign of lies and deceit.” It needed to be met head on.
  3. Leading anti-HERO figures claimed they were all for “equal rights.” They claimed they just wanted to protect their “daughters, moms, and grand moms.” But their extremely ugly, ominous, and potentially deadly agenda against HERO was revealed at the August launch to their campaign in a speech by Dr. Steven Hotze, a long-time fanatical (and influential) leader of Texas Republicans. Speaking to a small and half-empty room, he said “The homosexuals are hate-mongers. They hate God, they hate God's word, they hate Christ, they hate anything that's good and wholesome and right. They want to pervert everything." He unsheathed a sword and continued, “Remember: Homosexuals can't reproduce. They have to recruit.... Drive them out of our city. I don't want them in our city. Send them back to San Francisco.” U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz and Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick—Christian fascists both—have long had the backing of Hotze, and Patrick in particular became a leading figure in the anti-HERO onslaught. This shit is no joke, it is not just the cracked viewpoint of a marginalized band of lunatics in isolated parts of the country. It has the backing of powerful forces who seriously aim to move towards theocratic fascism, and it has to be taken seriously, and vigorously opposed as part of the overall building of a movement for revolution.
  4. Voting in largely and historically Black areas of Houston, such as Acres Homes, Sunnyside, and Third Ward, was overwhelmingly anti-HERO. A coalition of Black ministers and a fundamentalist group called the “Black Robe Regiment” were instrumental in getting out large numbers of Black voters. Bob Avakian wrote, “In Away With All Gods!, along with examining the implications of the reality that the Bible Belt is the lynching belt, I also emphasize that there is a great irony in this: that among the masses of Black people there is a particular form of Christian fundamentalism in which they are getting caught up and which is being promoted by a section of reactionary—yes, let's call them what they are: reactionary—Black preachers who are, objectively at least, serving this system which has for centuries oppressed Black people”. In this case, many Black ministers actively mobilized people to act not just against their own interests, but in service of an extremely repressive program against LGBT people by the same system which has developed a genocidal program of police brutality, murder, and mass incarceration against them. Yes, the Bible Belt is the lynching belt, and Christian fundamentalism is the glue that coheres a patriarchal, oppressive world outlook. People getting played into acting as agents of oppression by racist, woman-hating Christian fascists need to break with this shit and take up the fight for the emancipation of all humanity.
  5. Any system that would put up to a vote the basic rights of any section of the people to not be persecuted or discriminated against is illegitimate and doesn't deserve any respect.


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