Among the political signs jammed into the grass outside a polling station in this city’s South Park neighborhood stands one placard bearing an unusual slogan: “No men in women’s bathrooms.”
The statement, which is also emblazoned on T-shirts and conveyed in ominous television ads, has become a rallying cry for opponents of a measure designed to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and one of its most diverse.
The campaign to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO, has become a priority for national gay rights groups and the city’s gay mayor — as well as for local business leaders, who fear an economic backlash similar to the one that hammered Indiana earlier this year if it is not adopted. But with an election set for Tuesday, polls show voters are divided on the measure — and some analysts are predicting defeat.
One reason, they say, is the provocative claim that the measure would permit “any man at any time” to enter a women’s bathroom “simply by claiming to be a woman that day.” Opponents have dubbed the measure “the bathroom ordinance.”
“Houston voters do not want men in their women’s bathrooms,” said the Rev. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastors’ Council. “It’s an invasion of privacy, an invasion of a safe space for women and girls.”
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