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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 federal law.

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