State Politics

Comparing nondiscrimination protections in Texas cities

Despite a recent loss in Houston over the city's embattled anti-discrimination ordinance, gay rights activists across the state can still claim successes in enacting protections elsewhere. There are now 10 Texas cities with populations of more than 100,000 that have some rules or ordinances in place to protect residents or city employees based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

For at least a decade, Dallas, Austin and Fort Worth have had comprehensive ordinances offering lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents some degree of protection against discrimination in employment, housing and other public areas like buses and restaurants.

San Antonio passed a similar rule in September 2013 and was followed by Plano, where the city council voted in December 2014 to extend its nondiscrimination policy to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

Houston's nondiscrimination ordinance, which would have established protections from discrimination for LGBT residents, was repealed by voters last week — a year and a half after it was first passed by the Houston City Council in May 2014. Facing challenges from conservative activists, city officials declared a petition for a referendum on the ordinance had failed. This prompted a long legal battle that ended in July when the Texas Supreme Court ordered the city council to consider a valid referendum and put the ordinance up for public vote.

On Nov. 3, a resounding 61 percent of voters in the state's most-populous city rejected the measure. Discrimination protections for LGBT city employees are still in effect through an executive order.

In 2000, Fort Worth became the first Texas city to pass an ordinance to protect all individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The city expanded the ordinance in 2009 to also protect individuals on the basis of gender identity. Austin amended its nondiscrimination ordinance in 2004 to address sexual orientation and gender identity.

In 2002, Dallas expanded its nondiscrimination ordinance to include citywide protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the language of the ordinance grouped the two together under sexual orientation. On Tuesday, the Dallas City Council voted to separate the two classifications in the ordinance.

El Paso's city charter lists protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity for city employees, but they are not sanctioned by city ordinance. The policy has included provisions for gender identity and sexual orientation since 2003.

Arlington explicitly prohibits city employees from discriminating against people on the basis of sexual orientation but not gender identity. The rule is part of the city's employee handbook, and it applies to employees both on and off the job.

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