Every once in a while, a political issue arises that is neither right nor left, conservative nor liberal, Republican nor Democrat. It’s just a question of what’s right and what’s wrong, what’s fair and what’s not.
Proposition 1 on the City of Houston ballot this fall, about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, is about doing what’s right and what’s fair.
The question that will be on the ballot reads:
Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?
Voters are asked to answer YES, meaning they support the ordinance, or NO, meaning they do not want those protections.
What should you consider when deciding how you’ll vote?
How patriotic are you?
Think that no one discriminates against members of the military? Listen to Noel’s story:
Noel came back from serving in the US Air Force and started looking for work, only to be told during an interview that the manager talking with him was “against all military force” and wouldn’t hire anyone who had served.
Would federal law have protected him?
Possibly, even probably, but Noel didn’t need a federal case, he needed a job. He couldn’t afford the cost of hiring a lawyer, and he didn’t have time to wait for a federal lawsuit to wind its ways through the court.
The fact is, federal cases take a long time and cost a great deal of money. Lawyers are not likely to take a case like Noel’s without a significant retainer of thousands of dollars. The cases that get priority tend to involve large employers and have multiple plaintiffs. Even if Noel had the time and money, he would have had a difficult time finding a lawyer to take his case.
The Equal Rights Ordinance would have provided him a quick, local, affordable remedy while putting that employer on notice that discrimination would not be tolerated.
It also would have given others a heads up if they were deciding to do business with that employer. I see Support Our Troops stickers on cars every time I drive anywhere in Houston. I’m sure that none of us who support the troops want to protect businesses that discriminate against them.
Noel isn’t unique. He’s not the only veteran who has faced discrimination and struggled to find a job. The problems is nationwide:
Military leaders and veterans’ advocates worry about hidden hiring discrimination against Iraq and Afghanistan war vets by employers who see the veterans perhaps as emotionally damaged.
A key fear is how this could be contributing to stubbornly higher joblessness among the generation that volunteered to serve in the military after the 9/11 attacks. Because employers are barred by law from asking job applicants about mental health conditions, many assume that any veteran can be afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) although the vast majority returned from war without emotional problems, researchers and veterans advocates say.
Leading corporate hiring managers have told researchers they fear these veterans might fly into a rage or “go postal.” As a consequence, veterans say they’ve seen blatant discrimination.
If it’s happening nationwide, it’s happening in Houston. Over 1.5 million veterans live in Texas, roughly a third of those are veterans of recent conflicts.
The brave people who served our country in the military did so to protect our rights. Your yes vote on Proposition 1 demonstrates your willingness to protect their rights.
It’s fair. It’s right. Vote yes.
Photo credit Jesse Ehrenfeld used with permission from Transmilitary.