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OVERTURN GAY RIGHTS ORDINANCE
City Councilman Anthony Hall proposed amendments that would
add "sexual orientation" to city anti-discrimination policies.
In response, the Committee for Public Awareness was formed and spent
$15,000 for large newspaper ads saying, "City Council may make
'homosexuality' equal to religion and color." The ad urged those
opposed to any changes to the nondiscrimination policy, to attend the
next council meeting.
On June 19th the City Council chambers were in chaos as more than
400 people, an odd mix of church groups and Klu Klux Klan members, crowded
into the room and the hallway outside. Despite heated opposition,
the ordinances passed. Several councilmen immediately began a drive
to collect the signatures needed to call for a public vote to overturn
the ordinances, collecting more than double the signatures needed.
This began a five-month campaign barraging voters with lies calculated
to capitalize on every homophobic fear and belief, a laundry list including
bestiality, child molestation and AIDS. On January 19, 1985 voters turned
out in record high numbers and the adoption of the anti-discrimination
policies were defeated, by a 4-to-1 margin.
The effects on Houston's gay community and city politics at large were
profound. Mayor Whitmire, who had counted on the Gay Political Caucus
for support in 1982, did not even seek the Gay Political Caucus's endorsement
in her bid for re-election. Campaign literature for the 1985 general
election continued the anti-gay frenzy, with the new "Straight
Slate" making anti-homosexuality its central issue. The low morale
of the community was reflected in the attendance of the parade which
went down from 60,000 in 1984 to 2,000 in 1985.
It was not until 1998 that the city's anti-discrimination policies were
changed to include sexual orientation, when Mayor Lee Brown made good
on a campaign promise to issue an executive order reversing the referendum
on the 1985 (and also 2001 and 2015 Referrenda)