Houston voters reject civil rights measure for LGBT community

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Houston Contests Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Voters in Houston, the fourth most populous U.S. city, rejected a measure that have would banned discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation, protections not guaranteed under Texas law.

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was backed by outgoing Mayor Annise Parker, the first open lesbian to be elected as mayor of a major U.S. city and local business, while prominent Republicans and Christian pastors rallied against the proposal also called HERO.

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The ordinance would ban discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment and housing based on criteria including an individual's sexual orientation and gender identity.

The political wrangling over the measure had gone on for more than a year. Some conservative Christians saw it as an attack on their religious liberties. Backers of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community said it reflected the values of a modern and multicultural city and was needed to stamp out bigotry.

Many opponents focused on a small part of the ordinance that they said concerned the use of public bathrooms by transgender men and women. They also said it could allow for sexual predators in public restrooms.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, a Tea Party Republican, said in an advertisement opposed to HERO: "It's about allowing men into women's locker rooms and bathrooms. No woman should have to share a public locker room or restroom with a man."

Mayor Parker said after the vote, HERO's defeat may have stained the city's reputation.

"This was a campaign of fear mongering and deliberate lies," Parker said.

Photos of the fierce fight around Prop 1:

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Houston voters reject LGBT civil rights measure
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Houston voters reject civil rights measure for LGBT community
File - In this Oct. 21, 2015 file photo, a man urges people to vote against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance outside an early voting center in Houston. On Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, voters statewide can give themselves tax breaks, pump billions of dollars into roads and make hunting and fishing constitutional rights by supporting seven amendments to the Texas Constitution on Tuesday's ballot. And Houston will choose a new mayor and decide whether to extend nondiscrimination protections to its gay and transgender residents in a referendum being watched nationally. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
Rita Palomarez, left, and Linda Rodriguez pray during an election watch party attended by opponents of theHouston Equal Rights Ordinance on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Houston. The ordinance that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston did not pass. (Brett Coomer/HoustonChronicle via AP)
File - In this Oct. 22, 2015 file photo, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, left, greets a supporter at a fund raiser for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston. The ordinance that would establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston got support this week from some heavy hitters, including the White House and high tech giant Apple. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN - Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin speaks to staff and volunteers in Houston Wednesday Oct. 28, 2015, who are working to get out the vote for Prop 1 - Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance. (Michael Stravato/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)
Actress Sally Field, left, with Houston area women leaders, speaks at a Human Rights Campaign press conference in Houston, Thursday Oct. 29, 2015 to get out the vote for Prop 1 - Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance. (Michael Stravato/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign)
Campaign for Houston supporters check election results at a watch party, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Houston. The group opposes the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance that would establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
FILE - In this Friday, June 26, 2015 file photo, couples wait outside the Harris County Personal Records Office to get marriage licenses in Houston just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision that same-sex couples have a right to marry in all 50 states. After a drawn-out showdown between Houston's popular lesbian mayor and a coalition of conservative pastors, on Nov. 3, 2015, voters in the nation's fourth-largest city will decide whether to establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan, File)
Rhea Jared, right, and Georgette Monaghan face the cameras inside the Harris County Personal Records Office after requesting a marriage license Friday, June 26, 2015, in Houston just hours after the Supreme Court announced their decision that same-sex couples have a right to marry in all 50 states. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
FILE - In this Saturday, June 28, 2014 file photo, people dance during a gay pride festival in Houston. After a drawn-out showdown between Houston's popular lesbian mayor and a coalition of conservative pastors, on Nov. 3, 2015, voters in the nation's fourth-largest city will decide whether to establish nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people. (Mayra Beltran/Houston Chronicle via AP, File)
Houston Mayor Annise Parker speaks to supporters of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance at a watch party Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, in Houston. The ordinance that would have established nondiscrimination protections for gay and transgender people in Houston did not pass. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014 file photo, Houston Mayor Annise Parker, left, kisses her partner, Kathy Hubbard, after Parker was sworn in for her third term as mayor during the inauguration ceremony for Parker, City Controller Ronald Green and the 16-member Houston City Council at Wortham Theater Center in Houston. After a drawn-out showdown between Houston's popular lesbian mayor and a coalition of conservative pastors, on Nov. 3, 2015, voters in the nation's fourth-largest city will decide whether to establish nondiscrimination protections for gayand transgender people. (Johnny Hanson/Houston Chronicle via AP) 
Chart shows LGBT anti-discrimination protections by state; 2c x 5 inches; 96.3 mm x 127 mm;
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The measure won support from liberal groups and business leaders including the Greater Houston Partnership, which has more than 1,200 member companies.

"As we work to attract businesses and talented professionals to our region, they have made clear that they are seeking a community that is welcoming, diverse and inclusive," said Bob Harvey, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.

Indiana and Arkansas this year revised religious freedom acts after facing threats of boycotts and a firestorm of criticism from those who said the measures would allow people to cite their religious beliefs as reason to discriminate against the LGBT community.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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