Thursday, November 5, 2015

Off-Year Election

There was an election Tuesday. This is an off year. That means lower turnout and less interest, generally, than a presidential election year, or even the every-two-year congressional elections. Texas had no statewide races. There were seven statewide ballot propositions—they all passed. Still, I think there are things we can learn from looking at this voting day.

Son Political Sphere worked as our Presiding Judge in our precinct. We had an Alternate Judge from the opposite party, and I joined as a clerk at noon through the rest of the day. We were entitled to hire several more clerks, but I thought there was a good chance we were overstaffed with just us three. Based on what I’d seen in past off years, I estimated we’d have maybe as many as 150 voters for the full day. In 2013 we had 113 on Election Day, which was slightly higher than surrounding precincts.

I expected spare time between voters to maybe finish reading a book. But I was wrong. We had a steady stream of voters all day long. The only times there was much of a line were at the 7:00 AM opening (people wanting to vote before heading to work) and around 5:00. I don’t know why it would be higher at 5:00 than nearer to closing. But it continued steady up through closing. We ended with more than double my estimate. That is in addition to the two weeks of early voting.

Harris County overall had a turnout of 26.9%, higher than any off year since 2003. Typical is between18-19%.

Unlike the City of Houston, we had nothing all that compelling on our ballot, just propositions and school board trustees. So why the heavy turnout?

We can’t say for certain, but a clue comes from voters’ questions:

Q: So, we don’t vote for the mayor? We don’t vote on the Houston issues?
A: No, we’re just outside the City of Houston, so we don’t vote on that.
This question came up all day long. In an ideal world people have prepared to vote. They’d have looked up their sample ballot and schooled themselves on the issues and candidates. And they would have noticed that they haven’t been paying the higher taxes of the city.

But in a less than ideal world, the voters go by what they’ve been hearing on the news and elsewhere. And the big issue this election was the HERO proposition in Houston. That’s the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or, as it came to be called, The Bathroom Ordinance.
          photo from David Bro/Zuma Press/Newscom,found here

The ordinance itself, as others like it in other cities and states, doesn’t actually protect rights equally, as claimed. It adds burdens on society to make special allowances for certain classes. Controversially, these included the classifications of sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words, if a person in one of these special classes comes into your business and wants their special treatment, you’re subject to a lawsuit, leading to fines, jail terms, damages, etc., if you don’t grant them their special status.

There wasn’t a bigotry problem in Houston. There are essentially no cases in which people in these classes have been deprived of rights. They claim to guarantee things like city government and large corporations offering spousal benefits for same-sex couples (the same as they do for non-married heterosexual couples, by the way). The market has already provided the solution, without any government coercion needed.

But such an ordinance would go further, leading to more wedding services being sued, not for turning down service to homosexuals, but for turning down service to a wedding that goes against their religion. This danger is real and becoming more common. The HERO ordinance would have caused more coercion, not more protection of rights.

But where did it get the name The Bathroom Ordinance? The ordinance goes out of its way to accommodate transgendered individuals. That means, if a male person claims to “feel like” a woman on a given day, he must be allowed in women’s restrooms and locker rooms, or else the building owner or business is in violation of the law.

The problem comes when women object to having men in their private areas. These women are not reassured that they are safe from intrusion or rape or other danger; they are told they are in violation of the law. They are at fault for objecting to men watching them undress.

This is particularly alarming because there is no objective measure of whether a transgendered person qualifies to be an opposite gender—nothing but their personal say so. Not even their dress or appearance is required. So there is no way for women, or girls, to express their discomfort. They have no recourse but to suffer the danger. Knowing this, any male pervert could go into a woman’s restroom or dressing room and prey upon victims, and unless caught in the act of attack would have the defense that they “feel like” a woman that day.

The mayor and others pushing this through could have addressed this very reasonable concern. They chose instead to say that every person who felt uncomfortable with this danger was a bigot. Every man who waits outside the women’s restroom while his daughter uses the facilities would have no recourse if a six-foot-four burly bearded man followed his daughter into that restroom; he just gets branded a bigot.

Would the problem have been widespread? Probably not. Transgenders are an extremely small segment of society, and so are perverts. But that would be no reassurance to women whose sense of safety is ignored.

Also, suppose the law passed and affected schools. Suppose the rule says that any high school student can use the locker room that they feel suits them. Do you imagine that there will be any high school that does not experience some young man, dared by his buddies, to pretend to be transgendered to go into the girls locker room—because the schools can do nothing as long as he says he “feels like” a girl that day—will there be any high school that doesn’t have this privacy invasion? The law invites it. And the very fact that reasonable people see the result coming is met with, “You’re such a bigot!”
Well, it turns out that, even in the liberal City of Houston, the HERO proposition failed 61% to 39%. And people turned out in numbers we haven’t seen in more than a decade.

The claim that Houstonians are a bunch of homophobic bigots falls flat when you realize they elected lesbian Mayor Anise Parker three times (2-year terms; she is now term-limited out). In return for their tolerance, the Mayor pushed this ordinance through the City Council, against the will of the people.
The people responded by gathering tens of thousands of signatures to put repealing the ordinance on the ballot. Mayor Parker illegally threw out the signatures—and was slapped down by the state Supreme Court. She required the sermons and communications of local churches to go on a search for wording about homosexuality that she might not approve of—and was slapped down by the public outcry and the state Supreme Court. She also tried confusing wording on the ballot, but the Court slapped her for that as well and foiled that ploy.

She’s been slapped down again by this vote. But, while disappointed, she’s not defeated. The plan is to go forward, pushing the requirements of the ordinance through regulatory agencies, so it will find a back door into law, without any say by the people. Because she has no respect for the voice of the people. Elites are like that. And the pro-LGBT activists are among the most intolerant elites in our society today.

The HERO ordinance is similar to laws being promulgated across the country. They are referred to as ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) at the federal level, or generally as SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) laws. They are problematic, and pretty much never helpful. For example:

One case pitted a transgender employee with male DNA who sued after being denied permission to use the ladies’ restroom, a denial that resulted from complaints filed by female employees. The employer lost in the Minnesota Court of Appeals, but then prevailed in the Minnesota Supreme Court. Another case involved a male-looking person who sued and obtained a substantial settlement after being ejected from the ladies’ room in response to complaints by a female customer who that a man had just invaded the ladies’ room.[i]
It’s a no-win situation for the business owner, who must ignore the valid complaints of employees, including complaints about an intimidating or unsafe workplace, or valid complaints of customers who would rather not share changing rooms or restrooms with the opposite sex.

ENDA and SOGI laws have negatively affected employer speech. A Seattle business owner was charged for playing Christian radio in his workplace, a station where he advertised his business, because a homosexual employee complained this created a hostile work environment.[ii]

As Ryan Anderson says, “SOGI laws imperil religious liberty, privacy, economic freedom, and child welfare, creating more problems than they aim to resolve. They are a solution in search of a problem.”

Anderson said this in response to Tuesday’s election results, 

Don’t let the media demagogue and attack the people of Houston. Citizens there voted three times to elect Annise Parker, a lesbian, as mayor. They’re a tolerant city. But they drew the line when the city council voted to create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity that could have been used to shutter faith-based adoption agencies; penalize florists, photographers, and bakers; and force businesses to allow biological males who identify as women into women’s restrooms and changing rooms.
Citizens in Houston organized against the city council and collected more than enough signatures required to put the issue to a vote of the people. But the mayor claimed that the majority of signatures were invalid and refused to put the issue on the ballot. Then she subpoenaed the sermons of five prominent pastors who helped lead the charge against the measure. After a public outcry, the mayor relented on the sermons, and a unanimous state Supreme Court said the signatures were valid and the citizens had to vote on the measure.
And the citizens won.
Matt Walsh wrote about a school in Illinois that is facing the wrath of SOGI laws. He makes the point that the homosexual/transgender lobby can never be appeased.

This Illinois case is incredible considering how far the school district went to accommodate the deluded young man. Administrators first changed the pronouns on official school records to reflect whatever sex the “transgender” is pretending to be. That wasn’t enough. They allowed boys to play on girl sports teams, needlessly endangering safety and providing an unfair advantage to the team with the cross dressing male. That wasn’t enough. They let “transgenders” use the bathrooms of their choice. That wasn’t enough. They even let the boy use the girl’s locker room. The only stipulation — the only attempt they made to offer the real girls some shred of privacy and decency — was to ask the boy to change and shower behind privacy curtains, which they had specially installed for him. That wasn’t enough.
The school, like most schools in the country, bent over backwards to grant enormous and unreasonable favors to a small and demanding branch of an already tiny demographic. They made girls give up their sport’s teams, their bathrooms, and most of their privacy in the locker room, but the one single concession they asked of the boy was that he use a curtain. It still was not enough. It is never enough.
It is not about tolerance. This lobbying force does not want to settle for tolerance, which they have had. And they certainly do not want to tolerate any difference of opinion. They want supreme control. Which leaves those who love freedom, prosperity, and civilization with the necessity of resistance and constant vigilance.

But the good thing about this election is, it shows that when people are made aware of the stakes, they vote in strength.

[i] Hans Bader, “Employment Non-Discrimination Act Makes as Little Sense as Chemotherapy for a Cold,” Open Market (blog), Competitive Enterprise Institute, June 13, 2012, . This reference is included in Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, digital location 2209.
[ii] Walter Olson, The Excuse Factory: How Employment Law Is Paralyzing America (New York: Free Press, 1997), 250. This is mentioned in Anderson’s book at digital location 2261.

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