HOUSTON, Texas–Houston’s bathrooms, showers, and dressing facilities will now be open to all, regardless of gender, gender identity, gender expression, or other predilection of gender behavior. By an 11-6 vote of the Houston City Council, Mayor Annise Parker achieved this as the crowning jewel of her tenure as mayor.
Mayor Parker, Houston’s first openly gay mayor, said passing this ordinance was not the most important thing she has done in office, according to an article in the Fairfield Citizen, but it is the “most personally meaningful thing I will ever do as mayor.”
Houston Council Member, At Large Position 3, Michael Kubosh took exception to this. Kubosh told KPRC TV, “It’s going to criminalize people that have been found in violation in the ordinance and the fine could be between $500 to $5,000.”
In an interview with Breitbart Texas, Kubosh said, “The system is flawed and has little, if any, transparency. I did everything I could do to get the ordinance delayed or defeated, but the mayor controlled the whole process.” Kubosh said he voted against the ordinance along with District A Council Member Brenda Stardig, District D Council Member Dwight Boykins, District E Council Member Dave Martin, District G Council Member Oliver Pennington and At Large Position 5 Council Member Jack Christi.
Stephen Costello, the At Large Position 1 Council Member who supported Mayor Parker on the Proposition 1 “Rain Tax” ordinance, joined ten other council members in standing beside Mayor Parker.
The ordinance was strongly opposed by many black pastors, members of the Houston Area Pastors Council. 150 pastors from the conservative group representing a diverse coalition, ethnically and denominationally, angrily walked out of the council meeting today after two prominent African American pastors who represented the group were snubbed by the council body. According to a press release obtained by Breitbart Texas, Council Member Boykins asked to have two black pastors, Willie Davis and Max Miller, to be allowed to be moved up in the speakers list and speak out against the ordinance. It is a common practice by council members and one that is rarely opposed by other members.
In fact, Council Member Mike Laster had just previously been allowed the same courtesy to be extended to move up four pro-GLBT speakers in the order to speak before eight members plus Mayor Parker voted against Boykin’s request. One of the black pastors called it the equivalent of being “sent to the back of the bus.” After the public snubbing of the two black pastors by council, the 150 plus pastors present walked out of the meeting in protest. Immediately after this the council allowed another pro-GLBT speaker to be moved up. Council Member Bradford was the member who voiced the objection to Boykins’ request and called for the vote. Standard protocol is usually to allow the courtesy by unanimous consent.
“It was one of the most flagrantly disrespectful actions taken by an elected body toward its own constituency I have witnessed in over thirty years of involvement,” said Rev. Dave Welch on behalf of the pastors’ coalition involving eight major denominational and inter-denominational pastor networks.
Rev. Welch said:
It was clear that enough council members had decided to vote with Annise Parker’s personal agenda over the clear will of the people and basic decency in this act of thumbing their nose at respected Black clergy who represented all of us. Our only way of showing that we understood what had happened and to respond effectively was to vote with our legs.
Despite this, Council Member Boykin was the only black council member to stand with the black pastors and vote against the ordinance. District B Council Member Jerry Davis and At Large Position 4 Council Member C.O. Bradford voted in favor of the ordinance.
Of the three council members who are presumed to be considering running to replace Parker as mayor when her final term expires, Kubosh and Pennington voted no and Costello voted with Mayor Parker as a yes vote.
“We are very enthused by the massive coming together of pastors and churches in every corner of Houston,” Rev. Welch concluded. “However, we recognize that some council members will choose today to reject good government, common decency, protecting our women and children and ultimately the clear will of over 80% of Houston citizens by voting with Mayor Parker. We were prepared for that contingency and are ready to roll out a referendum to let the people vote. They chose to be against us, not the other way around. Once we correct this grievous act through the ballot this Fall, we will then remind those members that patronizing a tiny interest group and outgoing mayor instead of serving the people leads to a short political career.”
Breitbart Texas previously reported about prior council meetings about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Lana Shadwick wrote in detail about previous testimony before the city council and about the community protest held in regards to defeating the ordinance. Council Member Kubosh sat down for an exclusive interview on the topic with this writer. Because of the controversy surrounding this ordinance and the manner in which Mayor Parker handled the process, many are considering a recall action against the Mayor and/or some supporting council members.
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.