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Analysis: What really happened in Houston – How the transgender “bathroom bill” was defeated against overwhelming odds
A lesson for the rest of us
POSTED: Nov 24, 2015
On Nov. 3, voters in Houston went to the polls to vote on city council, school board, and other local races -- and also an “equal rights” transgender ordinance, a.k.a., “bathroom bill.”
One would have expected it to pass fairly easily. Houston is a large, deep-blue left-wing city with a powerful openly lesbian mayor who had been re-elected twice. The ordinance had been overwhelmingly passed by the city council. To win the referendum vote, Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders all campaigned for it, as well as movie stars and major corporations such as Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard, United Airlines, and others. There were threats from the NFL that if voters didn’t approve it, a Super Bowl in Houston would be jeopardized.
The LGBT lobby raised $3 million to pass it – an enormous amount for a city election (and most of it came from out-of-state). They set up a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation. On paper, this was a slam dunk. Three weeks before the election, a media-sponsored poll showed it passing by 6 points.
But when the votes were counted, it lost overwhelmingly, 61%-39%.
What happened? The short answer is that unlike just about everywhere else, in Houston the pro-family leaders rolled up their sleeves and aggressively fought back, instead of being “moderate” and afraid they might offend someone. It’s what our side should be doing everywhere.
There were basically two main factors, and a few minor factors, that made this happen:
1. Getting it to a vote: An outstanding group of pastors that refused to quit
Just getting the chance to vote on the ordinance was an enormous ordeal, thanks to corrupt public officials The city administration used numerous illegal tactics to keep it from getting on the ballot at all.
In early 2014, the Mayor brought up the radical “sexual orientation and gender identity” ordinance (which included up to a $5000 fine for a violation) before the city council. It was immediately clear that this would be a battle (see text of ordinance HERE). Pastor Dave Welch, President of the US and Houston Area Pastors Council, quickly mobilized the group and they lobbied the city council hard to stop it. They made some progress, but on May 28, 2014, it passed 11-6.
The pastors decided to get it on the ballot so the voters could have a say. They collected thousands of signatures across the city. By the deadline, the pastors' group had gathered over twice the required signatures!
Initially, the city secretary declared that there were more than enough valid signatures. But then the mayor stepped in and claimed that most of the signatures were actually invalid, and nullified the referendum attempt. That move was clearly illegal. The pastors' group took the city to court over it.
The city angrily responded to that court filing by issuing subpoenas to five of the pastors, requiring them to submit their sermons to City Hall so they could be examined for political activity, such as encouraging people to sign the petitions! The pastors were threatened with fines and jail time if they didn’t comply. It was unbelievable! The pastors, who became known as “the Houston five,” refused to do it. That mayor's outrageous stunt became a national incident. The mayor finally backed down and withdrew the subpoenas.
The court fight was a difficult process. On April 15, 2015, a district court judge ruled in favor of the city! But the pastors refused to give up. They appealed it up to the Texas Supreme Court, which in July 2015 unanimously ruled in their favor! The election was set for Nov. 3, 2015.
Then the city administration purposefully made the wording on the ballot question confusing. They worded it so a “no” vote would be for the measure and a “yes” vote would be against the measure. So the pastors went back to court. The Texas Supreme Court again agreed with the pastors. They ruled that the city was wrong and needed to reverse the wording to make it clearer.
Pastor Welch, one of “the Houston five,” described the ordeal in eloquent detail in his keynote speech at the Stand4Truth conference on Oct. 26. We encourage everyone to watch it.
Houston was fortunate to have Pastor Welch. He is a great leader, and the unyielding kind of churchman we all need in this movement. In particular, as he describes in his speech, he and the other Houston pastors at the forefront of this battle are not afraid to use the word “evil” to describe what was happening to the citizens of Houston. They fought City Hall and won – they got the “sexual orientation / gender identity” ordinance (Proposition 1, dubbed by the city “HERO” - Houston Equal Rights Ordinance) on the ballot so people could vote on it.
2. Getting it passed: Jared Woodfill and Dr. Stephen Hotze ran very aggressive campaign
Now that it was up for a vote, it had to get passed! Everyone knew that the other side would raise a lot of money, have celebrities and corporations pushing for hard for it, have a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation -- and have the media act as a free propaganda outlet.
On the other hand, our side usually comes into the battle with no money, no expertise, and no guts. That was definitely not the case this time!
Jared Woodfill had been chairman of the Harris County Republican Party (the most populous country in Texas, with Houston its county seat) from 2002-2014. He knew how to run a big and successful campaign. And he knew the key political players he’d need to count on.
Dr. Stephen Hotze is a physician and successful businessman. He’s also a long-time political fundraiser in Texas and an uncompromising, energetic, and fearless pro-family advocate.
The two of them ran "Campaign for Houston" -- the “vote no” operation. They raised a lot of money (though less than half that of their opponents -- and almost all of it from in-state donors). They got a lot of high-profile Republican politicians on board. They connected with smart people. They spent their money well.
They flooded the airwaves with aggressive, hard-hitting TV ads, radio ads, and other advertising. They held events. They made sure it got a lot of media coverage. We’re not generally big fans of the “bathroom bill” approach to block "transgender rights" issues, but these activists used it very well.
Local Fox News TV report complaining about the hard-hitting ads by Campaign for Houston: "New slate of anti-HERO ads hitting airways."
VIDEO: Here is one of the TV ads that the Left didn't like:
See more of the hard-hitting TV and radio ads on the Campaign for Houston site.
Houston Astros baseball great Lance Berkman also made a TV commercial against Proposition 1.
At the same time, the army of pastors across Houston – black, white, and Hispanic – did a “ground game” that was far more effective than the Left’s.
In the end, it’s safe to say that everyone in Houston well understood why this ordinance was very bad. By their own admission, the LGBT lobby couldn’t compete with a pro-family movement that had its act together and wasn’t the least bit afraid to be politically incorrect.
3. ALSO: Prominent GOP politicians supported the pro-family cause.
Even though Houston is very liberal and Democrat, the Republican Party runs the state of Texas. In most places, the GOP would hide from a controversial fight like this one. But thanks to Woodfill’s and Hotze’s connections and skill, politicians from the Governor on down got on board very publicly. Even Ted Cruz was involved. It showed the public that this was a safe side to be on!
4. ALSO: Not afraid of the name-calling, intimidation, etc.
In battles like these, the Left, the media, and particularly the LGBT movement, resorts to angry child-like name-calling (bigot, homophobe, hater, etc.) and hysterical insinuations against those who disagree with them (comparing them to KKK or Nazis). In the past, it’s had a fairly powerful intimidation effect. But that seems to be wearing out. Almost nobody in Houston seemed to be afraid of that anymore. Certainly not when they walked into the voting booth.
Not unexpectedly, after their election loss, the hysteria from the Left got even worse. They were shocked and angry at how lopsided the vote was. Here’s a video of the mayor of Houston blaming the loss on “fear-mongering and deliberate lies.” Not to be outdone, the New York Times published an editorial titled, “In Houston, Hate Trumped Fairness.” It’s become so predictable that much of the public no longer takes it seriously.
But Jared Woodfill and Dr. Hotze answered back. On Nov. 13, they published a fairly blistering op-ed article in the Houston Chronicle. As usual, they didn't mince words:
Mayor Annise Parker thought that she could disguise the ordinance as a discrimination issue even though there were already anti-discrimination laws on the books. Liberal, pro-homosexual organizations poured in millions of out-of-state dollars trying to sway the voters ... The message of those who promoted Proposition 1 was this: If you are against the ordinance, then you support discrimination and you are a bigot. They hoped to intimidate and shame people into voting for Proposition 1.
After spending over $3 million, the proponents of Proposition 1 went down in a humiliating defeat.
Mayor Parker, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus PAC and the Greater Houston Partnership should be ashamed of the way that they tried to disguise their true agenda. The issue was not about discrimination; rather, it was about using the political and legal system to force individuals, businesses and society to accept, affirm and celebrate those who participate in homosexual and transgender behavior. There is a war being waged by the secular left on the biblical foundations of our culture and this was one of the battlegrounds.
The predominantly African-American districts rejected Proposition 1 by a 72 percent to 28 percent margin ... They refused to let themselves be used as a smokescreen by the homosexual political movement.
Houstonians rejected Proposition 1 because it brought no demonstrable benefit, and failed to protect against possible harm. We believe the ordinance would have allowed men, who claim to be women, to enter women's public accommodations, such as bathrooms, showers and locker rooms, violating women's privacy and potentially placing them in harm's way. Feelings do not change the facts. Human biology and genetics prove that any man who "claims" to be a female is still a man, no matter what he thinks he is.
We should learn something from this
Wow. It is so refreshing to see clergymen who aren’t tepid and wishy-washy, conservative businessmen who aren’t afraid of their own shadows, and GOP politicians who haven’t sold their principles down the river.
We have said it before: Even with all their money, political influence, celebrity, and corporate help, the LGBT movement, like the Left in general, is not unbeatable at all. Like most totalitarian movements, it is more of a house of cards than most people realize.
As we saw in Houston, being fearless goes a long way. For some reason, it’s often the hardest thing for pro-family people to achieve. But the average person, even in ultra-Democrat Houston, ultimately will respond to a strong message of common sense. We just have to step up to the plate and do it!
Last year when it all began, stopping this ordinance in Houston looked like a losing cause. In the end, our side won, 61% to 39%!