November 3, 2015      5:01 PM
ED: On Election Day, the original intent of HERO has been lost
QR’s Emily DePrang has covered the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance since its inception. She says that one of the most racially diverse cities in the nation needs a fast, cheap, legal way to discourage discrimination – now it may not have one
It is likely that this afternoon in Houston, voters are in
the process of rejecting the city’s Proposition One, which would create
a municipal ordinance that most major cities in the United States – including
several in Texas – have had on their books for more than a decade. For this and
a variety of other reasons, one might think it would easily pass. But early
voting patterns suggest Prop One, aka the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance or ERO, will be defeated—and might even go down big—largely because
of opposition from the same group it was originally designed to help and would
have benefitted from it most: African Americans.
The ordinance is straightforward: if you think you’ve been
discriminated against for any one of a host of reasons, including age, race, religious
belief and veteran status, you can complain to the city, the same as you would
if your neighbor were constantly holding house parties in the middle of the
week or letting their dogs roam the street. The city will look into it. If the
complaint appears valid, the city can, if it chooses, after several
intermediary steps that aren’t afforded the accused in the case of noise or
animal complaints, eventually, maybe, assess a fine.
It’s fairly common knowledge in Houston (my hometown) that many
nightclubs won’t admit more than a few black patrons at any one time for fear
of lowering the perceived prestige of the club. Other places will charge a cover
fee or enforce a dress code only on people of color. These are routine, common,
systematic and willful acts of discrimination, and they’re prohibited by
But at the moment, the only legal recourse Houstonians have
is to sue the discriminating party in federal court. To use a popular
colloquialism: Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Well, not nobody.
By Emily DePrang