This One Crazy Trick For GOTV Will Really Surprise You

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Well, let’s hope it does.

The Facebooks have been a-buzz in and around Houston with allegations that The Gaslamp, a bar in Houston’s midtown, has a discriminatory door policy:

My name is Brandon Ball. I am 32 years old. I am African American. Tonight I was with my friends Dan Scarbrough (42) and Ken Piggee (43). Both are also African American. We were in the Midtown area of Houston, TX tonight and tried to go into The Gaslamp. Both Dan and Ken had on blazers. I had on a button up and slacks. When we walked up the guy at the door told us $20 each (pictured below in the long sleeve shirt). We didn’t want to pay that amount so we decided to go to the next bar down, The Dogwood, which was free.

After about 30 minutes we left The Dogwood and were walking back. As we passed The Gaslamp we noticed folks walking into The Gaslamp without having to pay. Those folks who didn’t have to pay were white.

We’d like to think that in 2015, this story would be surprising, but it isn’t, and that’s very, very discouraging to admit.

We’d also like to think that in 2015, there would be some sort of remedy, but beyond social media shaming, there isn’t much in Houston that can be done. We do not, at the moment, have an equal rights ordinance in effect.

We do have one on the ballot this fall. People who want to vote to protect equal rights and access to jobs, housing, and places of public accommodation in Houston can vote YES on Prop 1. 

Pastors, politicians, educators, activists, artists, athletes, and business leaders have all come out in favor of HERO.

And so has … the attorney representing The Gaslamp. He is practically daring voters to approve HERO so they will have a better remedy for challenging his client’s practices should they be discriminatory.

He’s no Pizza Rat, but attorney Tim Sutherland has posted quite the YouTube video to clarify its door policy and assure us that they aren’t racist assholes, they’re just assholes:

Dudebro-at-law Sutherland outlines exactly what we should do if we’re not happy with The Gaslamp’s bros and smokin’ hot babes attitude—vote for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

He explains:

We’ve had over 100,000 customers come through our doors since we opened, and not once has there been a single court case or a finding of discrimination against us. That also is not a defense. The fact is that federal discrimination law doesn’t cover nightclubs.∗ You need a local ordinance or a state law that will stop it and give people a way to make a claim like every other big city in the United States.

The public assumes that there’s some magical overlap between what is morally wrong and what is illegal, that the laws in place today have dealt with the problems of yesterday, and that’s not true.

So for those of you who are outraged, I say there is something that you can do, because it’s not illegal until you, the voter, make it illegal.

Do your job, get educated, and make it so there’s common ground between your beliefs and the world that you live in . . .

This is bigger than Brandon Ball. It’s about our city, and what we accept, and what we reject. It’s about what we’re going to do about it.

This can’t be like all the other times. It cannot be that we sit and wait for the storm to pass, and then get back to business as usual.

There you have it. The oddest, most backhanded endorsement and get-out-the-vote speech you have ever seen or heard.

I wonder if The Gaslamp would allow GOTV volunteers to canvass the club?

Maybe all of the bars eager to prove they are not discriminating should host voter education and GOTV activities, like special happy hours on early voting days.

Houston will need every last bar-goer and then some to turn out. Let’s hope that the initial outrage builds momentum and turns into action.

Somebody print the DUDEBRO for HERO t-shirts. Just think about how it would impress the smokin’ hot babes so they would totally know you weren’t creeping on them.

∗ Technically, federal discrimination law does cover nightclubs, but practically speaking, the cost of litigating a claim is too high and the process too onerous for any person turned away at the door to bother making the case. I’m sure that’s what Tim meant.

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About Author

Andrea Greer

Andrea, an activist, fundraiser, feminist, writer, and baker, is not as tall as you think she is. She's been at this a long time, and wants to know what you are doing to make the pie higher and raise more hell. Her mother would like you to know she's got a law degree.

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