Monday, November 5th. 2001 Volume 67, Issue 53


 
 









 

Discrimination must be defeated 

Alicia Garza
Guest Columnist

With election day just one day away, Houstonians are sure to be confronted with signs on the streets, ads on television and articles in the paper regarding what is at stake on the extensive (and perhaps even confusing) ballot. This election, there are six candidates for mayor, even more for city council positions and a plethora of city and state propositions.

Despite the number of issues under consideration, it seems little dialogue is taking place, and one critical measure in danger of being
misunderstood or overlooked is City Proposition 2 (not to be confused with State Proposition 2). If passed, City Proposition 2 would
single out and discriminate against gays, prohibiting gay city employees from obtaining health insurance to cover their families. It is
important to note that all major cities in Texas (San Antonio, Austin, and even Dallas) except Houston offer benefits to the families of
gay city workers.

Mayor Lee Brown considered offering domestic partner benefits to city employees earlier this year, but changed the proposal to pursue
a non-discrimination ordinance instead.

In July, the city council voted to approve Brown's anti-bias ordinance outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, race,
religion, age, gender or disability for city employees. When this ordinance passed, it incited right-wing extremist Dave Wilson to found
Houstonians for Family Values (www.hffv.com). Wilson then succeeded in collecting more than 21,000 petition signatures and, despite
their disputed validity, the city council approved the petition and what is now City Proposition 2 was added to the ballot.

One group in opposition to City Prop. 2 is Progressive Voters in Action, a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization that
mobilizes voters to support progressive issues (www.votepva.org). PVA was one organization to question the authenticity of those
21,000 signatures.

After extensive verification, PVA found "about 7 percent of the signatures overall to be invalid everything from dead people signing
the petition, to people signing their spouse's name along with their own, to people simply making mistakes and not filling in all the
information required on the petition for their signature to be considered valid." HFFV denies any knowledge of wrongdoing or illegal
signature collecting.

HFFV clearly states the goals of City Proposition 2 on its Web site: To prohibit City of Houston employees from receiving health-care
benefits for same-sex partners. This includes those couples just living together and not legally married; guarantees that City of
Houston contractors will not be required by the city to meet homosexual "quotas" in order to have contracts with the city; and
prohibits homosexuals from being granted "minority or affirmative action status."

Yet Wilson says, "As far as I'm concerned, anytime we're labeled as (anti-gay), we're mischaracterized." Based on these objectives, it is
unclear to me how that could be a mischaracterization.

A recent Houston Chronicle/KHOU-TV poll indicated that the questioned city voters oppose offering health insurance and other benefits
to same-sex domestic partners of city employees by a margin of 9 percent. However, opponents of City Proposition 2 are undaunted
and believe there are still many people who simply don't know about the initiative.

Even those who have heard something about it may not understand it; it has been found that many voters who are actually against
discrimination think they should vote for the bill simply because it deals with gay rights. It is reaching these uninformed voters that is
the critical step in gaining the support needed to defeat the bill.

While Dave Wilson may choose to label his organization and ballot amendment as "pro-family and pro-traditional marriage," I think it is
imperative that we, as university students, realize that City Proposition 2 is not "pro" anything except discrimination and hatred. We
must go to the polls and tell this extremist group that such bigotry is unacceptable.

If City Prop. 2 passes, it will legalize discrimination in the city charter by creating two classes of city workers -- one that can protect
its families by purchasing health insurance and one that cannot. We would be sending a message to the rest of the world that Houston
not only accepts discrimination, but advocates it.

And once one measure is put in place, another is sure to follow and then another and another. It is difficult to fathom what group
HFFV's next target would be. As Alejandro Morua, executive director of PVA, pointed out: "This measure is basically a barometer. The
city is voting on whether or not gays deserve civil rights." Let's show the rest of the world that Houstonians believe they do.

Garza, a senior Spanish major, can be reached via dccampus@mail.uh.edu.
 
 

To contact the Opinon Section Editor, send e-mail to dcampus@mail.uh.edu
 

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