US: Houston passes law to prevent LGBT employees from being fired

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Houston, the largest city in Texas, passed a non-discrimination ordinance on Wednesday.

Yesterday, after hours of testimony, the Houston City Council passed an ordinance that bans discrimination of Houstonians on the basis of their race, sex, color, sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories. The ordinance, introduced by Houston’s openly-gay Mayor Annise Parker, passed with a vote of 11 in support to 6 against.

The city council heard testimony in support of the ordinance from over 200 individuals, with fewer than 30 individuals speaking out against it. Houston, the fourth-largest city in the US, was the only major US city without a non-discrimination policy. Similar legislation was passed in San Antonio in 2013 that provides nondiscrimination protections against gay and transgender residents.

The ordinance, first introduced on May 14 by Ms Parker, will protect LGBT employees from discrimination at companies with at least 15 individuals. This means however that smaller businesses with less than 15 employees are not held to the same standards, ultimately not holding them accountable for discrimination.

Ms Parker, Houston’s first openly gay mayor was elected in 2009 with 53.6% of the vote, where she was celebrated as showing that Texas was not as much of a conservative monolith as critics had suspected.

Ms Parker was criticised by the Houston Chronicle for making the ordinance too personal therefore allowing her opponents to insist she is furthering a gay agenda. Ms Parker said: “This is not the most important thing I have done or will do as mayor, but it is the most personally satisfying, the most personally meaningful thing that I will do as mayor.”