Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director at the N.C. Values Coalition, which opposed the Charlotte ordinance, said the Houston policy would have been dangerous.
“We think that it was a common sense defeat,” she said. “People used their brains and decided that they don’t want to encounter people of the opposite sex in their own bathrooms.”
Fitzgerald said the coalition is glad the referendum failed, and the vote accurately reflects Houston’s values. The coalition encourages any city in North Carolina considering implementing similar laws to think twice, she said.
“We will fight them like we did in Charlotte, and we expect to defeat them,” she said.
But in Houston, the vote against the policy could mean economic repercussions.
UNC law professor Victor Flatt said the failure to pass the ordinance will hurt the city’s image as a welcoming place to work.
“Many people who are well-educated or progressive and are looking for places to live or settle down or start companies don’t want to be in a location that they think is backward or discriminatory,” he said.
Flatt said there have already been calls to remove the Final Four basketball tournament and Super Bowl LI from Houston.
He said he does not believe this vote was a reflection of most citizens’ attitudes because the opposition focused only on the bathroom issue.
“Almost none of the debate was about employment protection,” Flatt said. “The vote wasn’t even really about what the ordinance was about.”
Meno said there are a lot of ways to protect people against discrimination in the workplace, but the best way to protect people is to pass a nondiscrimination bill through the U.S. congress.
“Unfortunately, that legislation has stalled in Washington, D.C., and that’s why you now see the fight going to local municipalities in places like Houston and Charlotte,” he said.