The Agenda

HERO fight turns to Houston’s openly LGBTQ council members

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) will be on the ballot on November 3, alongside three Victory-endorsed candidates for the Houston City Council. These LGBTQ leaders have played a crucial role in passing and defending the ordinance, and now they’re under direct attack by anti-LGBTQ forces in Houston.
Several anti-HERO candidates filed at the last minute to challenge pro-HERO candidates, including the three Victory endorsees.   
HERO protects Houstonians against discrimination in employment, housing and business services on the basis of 15 different characteristics, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The fourth-largest city in the U.S., Houston is the only major city without an equal rights ordinance.
The ordinance originally passed in 2014, but was suspended by the Texas Supreme Court, which forced Houston to repeal the ordinance or place the issue on the November ballot.
Robert Gallegos, a lifelong resident of his district, is running for Houston City Council District I. First elected in 2013, he was the first openly gay Latino city council member. Robert was instrumental in passing HERO, proposing an amendment applying the ordinance to firms with 25 or more employees immediately, and firms with 15 or more employees two years after passage.
Mike Laster has been the Houston City Council District J member for three years, and the first openly gay man on the City Council. His leadership and support also aided the passage of HERO. One of Mike’s opponents, Manny Barrera, holds the support and was encouraged to run by anti-LGBTQ activist Dave Wilson, a member of the Houston Area Pastor Council, who helps funds the anti-HERO campaign. This group has called openly gay Houston Mayor Annise Parker a “sodomite” and has labeled LGBTQ people as “forces of spiritual darkness.”
Lane Lewis is a Victory-endorsed candidate for an at-large seat on the City Council. A lifelong LGBTQ activist, he was instrumental in bringing down anti-sodomy laws throughout the country in the landmark Lawrence v. Texas case. He is committed to keeping HERO intact.  
HERO Opponents are using anti-LGBTQ rhetoric to garner support, equating LGBTQ people to “sexual predators,” and making transphobic remarks about transgender women using women’s bathrooms and locker rooms. Groups such as the Alliance Defending Freedom, a $30 million budget organization labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and individual donors like Steven Hotze are funding the anti-HERO campaign and anti-HERO candidates like mayoral candidate Ben Hall.
By spearheading the fight to restore HERO and by coming under attack by anti-LGBTQ forces in Houston, Robert, Mike and Lane epitomize the need for openly LGBTQ public officials.
You can support Victory’s effort to save HERO by helping elect more LGBTQ leaders to the City Council.