As I reported yesterday, the first real draft proposal of Houston’s non-discrimination ordinance has officially been introduced to the City Council and unveiled to the general public. Longtime followers of the saga could probably explain it as well as me at this point, but the ordinance does three basic things. First, it bans discrimination against LGBT people (among countless other demographics, all of which are already protected under Federal Law) in government sectors. Second, discrimination is banned in businesses, both in employment and public accommodation. The anecdote I keep using is that a restaurant would not be able to deny service to a gay patron, nor fire a lesbian waitress for coming out to her boss. That last part, extending the ordinance’s protections to private employment, was a hard-fought victory for the GLBT caucus in Houston, as well as all opponents of homophobia.
Mayor Annise Parker was originally tepid on this provision because there were ostensibly not enough Councilmembers supporting it. A few weeks ago, my sources counted eight supporters of private employment protections in the NDO (Mayor Annise Parker and CMs Stephen Costello, David Robinson, Jerry Davis, Ellen Cohen, Ed Gonzalez, Robert Gallegos and Mike Laster). This was exactly one vote shy of the needed majority for passage. However, a couple more Councilmembers have now gone out in the open supporting such legislation, giving it the green light to becoming law.
Councilmember Larry Green, previously considered an undecided on the matter, Tweeted to the world yesterday that he is a supporter –ceteris paribus– of the ordinance, saying “From what I’ve seen, I am a supporter [of the NDO].” This brings the number to at least nine Councilmembers in support, a majority already.
Then, there is Councilmember Michael Kubosh. Not too long ago, Texas Leftist reported that Kubosh was “likely” to support the comprehensive NDO, and my City Hall sources reiterated such sentiment yesterday and today on the topic. Kubosh, who can only be described as a populist libertarian, has always been a tad bit of a wildcard on this issue.
When Texpatriate tried to ascertain then-candidate Kubosh’s position on the matter last year, he spoke only in broad platitudes, saying “I would be against any ordinance that would discriminate against any individual for any reason.” Admittedly, we assumed he was referring to the cliche against NDOs that it is a bigot’s “religious liberty” to discriminate against gays and lesbians. While Kubosh did, however, lobby quite strongly on behalf of extending the generous exemptions for religious institutions in the ordinance (neither small business, churches nor religious schools would have to adhere), he looks far more amenable to such legislation now than he did in the past.
If Kubosh signs on, that would make ten supporters. Beyond him, my next best guesses for supporters would be Councilmembers Dwight Boykins and C.O. Bradford. I spoke to Bradford briefly yesterday, just as he received a copy of the ordinance. He was intending upon rigorously looking through it before reaching a conclusion.
Last, but certainly not least, there is Councilmember Jack Christie. A conservative Republican on the at-large portion of the Council, Christie told the GLBT Caucus last year that he supported a comprehensive NDO, including protections for private employment. However, in recent weeks, sources have alleged that he has backed off such sentiment. In the obligatory Houston Chronicle article on Parker’s unveiling of the ordinance, Christie is quoted. He notes that earlier drafts includes a powerful commission that would examine alleged violations of the ordinance, and that its non-inclusion may have placated many of the Councilmember’s concerns. He stops far short, however, of unequivocally endorsing the ordinance.
But the headline remains just as important. With Green unambiguously supporting the ordinance, a majority of the Council look ready to pass this bill. Mayor Annise Parker’s style, however, has never been to ram legislation through. She will indubitably lobby CMs such as Kubosh, Christie and Brenda Stardig to sign onto the measure so she can claim bipartisan support for such a divisive issue. Indeed, this is what Mayor Julian Castro in San Antonio did last year. The difference, however, is that Castro sacrificed the private employment portion of the bill for political expediency. Parker has decided not to do so, but it looks as though she will be successful nonetheless.