Openly-gay Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker shared advice about equal rights at a Democratic gala in Jacksonville Monday night.
Houston made headlines last month when city residents voted down an equal rights ordinance already passed by the Houston City Council. It banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among a list of other areas.
Jacksonville has a limited human rights ordinance that bans discrimination in already federally-protected areas like race and religion when it comes to public housing and public accommodations. But in 2012 the Jacksonville City Council failed to add sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to existing language.
Parker says the main argument used to take LGBT protections away in Houston, was the argument that sexual predators will use it to get into women’s bathrooms.
“It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good message. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a good ordinance. It wasn’t because we didn’t have a strong campaign,” Parker said. “It was because the other side planted a fear and just planted that fear over and over again. A completely baseless fear and they wrote a lie.”
Parker says her advice to Jacksonville is to take those counterarguments seriously.
“Don’t roll your eyes, don’t laugh,” she said. “Address them head on.”
She says she watched as her city voted for the right to discriminate against her when the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance was voted out.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry is holding three community forums to talk about expanding the city’s HRO to include LGBT protections before city council votes on it again.
The second one is set for this Thursday at Edward Waters College.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Parker as the former Houston mayor.