The nation’s first referendum on LGBT rights following the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage went down to defeat Tuesday night in Houston, the fourth largest city in the country. It failed by a wide margin, 61 percent to 39 percent.
Much will be written about this loss for equality in the days to come, but here’s a big piece of political malpractice, as noted by Mike Signorile.
Political strategists warned LGBT activists in the days ahead of the vote: There was little Spanish-language outreach, no big ad buy in Spanish-language media — in a city that is 44% Hispanic — countering the lies of the opposition, who’d certainly been doing their own outreach. Monica Roberts, a long-time African-American transgender activist, warned of little outreach in the black community, which makes up 24% of the city.
That lack of outreach was already evident in pre-vote polling released in early
A KHOU/KUHF pol released earlier this month found that 43 percent of respondents supported HERO, 37 percent opposed it and 18 percent were undecided, with a margin of error of 4.1 percent.
The same poll showed the claim that HERO would allow men to enter women’s restrooms to be persuasive among undecided voters, especially black women. HERO opponents have built their campaign almost entirely around the debunked transgender bathroom myth.
So that means the anti-LGBT camp managed to win the entire “undecided” vote and then some in a month by focusing the patently false notion that “any man at any time” could enter a woman’s bathroom if the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) passed. In fact, many people didn’t even know the measure was about protecting more than a dozen different classes of people from discrimination.
Of the roughly two dozen voters BuzzFeed News interviewed in Houston, about half believed the ordinance applied solely to granting men and transgender people access to public bathrooms. Roughly a quarter knew of the law’s wider scope banning discrimination. Another quarter knew nothing about it.
This wasn’t just an exercise in losing the messaging war, it seems it was more a failure to message at all even though the Human Rights Campaign-led coalition outspent the anti-LGBT side three to one ($3 million to $1 million, to be specific).