Tempers flare at Houston City Council where a committee heard testimony Wednesday on Mayor Annise Parker's equal rights proposal.
The Greater Houston Partnership supports the measure, which it says would among other things, require business to make all women's bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms available to all who are dressed in female attire, without regard to biological sex.
The legislation is similar to an ordinance passed in San Antonio last year. Not everyone agrees the ordinance is needed.
“There's no evidence of discrimination that rises to the level of imposing the threat of fines and punishment on all citizens throughout the city, including businesses,” one man told council members.
Dave Welch at the Houston Area Pastor Council told KTRH's Michael Berry his group has asked Mayor Parker why the urgency for such an ordinance.
“The best she could come up with is there are some individuals that were denied access to clubs on Washington Avenue because of their color, and a veteran was denied access to a restaurant because of a service dog,” he said.
“Therefore we need to completely expand the power of city government over the private sector of Houston,” Welch added.
Others argue they don't want to be fined up to $500 a day for not allowing a transgender person in their women's restroom.
“If I have a restroom that says 'gentleman,' I don't care whether you're gay or not, that's not a problem,” one man shouted at council members. “But if you look like a man, that's the one I want you to use.”
“If my restroom says 'women' and you look like a woman, that's the one I want you to use,” he said.
Councilman Mike Laster questioned City Attorney David Feldman on the issue.
“Is it fair to say that the ordinance does not allow a man to go into a female restroom, and the ordinance does not allow a female to go into a man's restroom?” Laster asked.
“That is correct,” responded Feldman.
The full city council could vote on the ordinance in the coming weeks.