The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — a proposal that would have allowed men to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and changing areas based on gender identification — was soundly defeated by Houston voters at the ballot box last week. According to one advocate for the now-defunct proposal, pop star Beyoncé bears at least some of the blame for its failure.
The trouble began when Carlos Maza, LGBT Program Director for Media Matters for America and an early advocate of the law, found out that the proposal would be going up for a public repeal vote.
In an essay for the Huffington Post, Maza wrote that his “stomach turned:” “Laws like HERO tend to lose, badly, when they’re put up for a public vote.”
What Maza needed was a fresh angle, a way to make sure that progressive voters would show up at the polls on decision day.
“So I did what any god-fearing gay man does in his time of need. I turned to Beyoncé,” Maza wrote.
Specifically, Maza lobbied the pop star to weigh in on the proposed ordinance via social media. He wrote a piece for the Huffington Post titled, “With One Post, Beyoncé Could Stop Anti-Gay Discrimination in Her Hometown,” urging the pop star to post just one Instagram, one tweet, anything that would indicate to her 50 million-plus social media followers that she supported the law and wished to see its passage.
The piece took off; advocates created the #BeyBeAHero hashtag campaign on Twitter, which quickly racked up 10 million impressions on the social media platform.
But Beyoncé remained silent, and purposely — in an interview with Mic about the campaign’s failure, Maza said Beyoncé’s team knew about the hashtag.
“Part of Beyonce’s brand is that she’s an ally to the LGBT community and her refusal to engage in this instance, when it would’ve been relatively easy, I think, should raise questions about why and what that means for her identity as an ally to the community,” Maza told Mic. “People worked very hard to give her an opportunity and her decision to say no should say something about her brand.”
HERO was ultimately rejected by Houston voters, by a wide 61%-49% margin. And Maza conceded in his HuffPost essay that “No celebrity is obligated to weigh in on social issues.”
But he remained hurt by Beyoncé’s inaction.
“HERO is gone, now,” Maza concluded his essay. “And for her queer fans who watched and waited while Beyoncé decided it wasn’t in her brand’s interests to speak out in defense of her hometown’s non-discrimination law, all there’s left to do is ask ‘why not?'”