Ben Hall Opposes Houston Proposition #1 (H.E.R.O.)

As the former Houston City Attorney during the Bob Lanier administration, I have had the honor and obligation to write and approve laws and ordinances for this premier city. The laws I have written have never been set aside by any court of law when challenged in court. I also successfully provided legal support for the City’s anti-discrimination MWBE (Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises) ordinance. In my 29-year legal career, I have never had any municipal law I have approved be held to be unlawful or unconstitutional. I know well-written laws and how to defend them.

While I agree that no one should be discriminated against, I oppose – and encourage others to vote against – the City of Houston’s H.E.R.O. ordinance that will be on the November 3, 2015 ballot. H.E.R.O. is dangerous, unconstitutionally vague and will arbitrarily impose criminal penalties without required objective standards. The ordinance also tramples upon constitutional rights and due process requirements by exposing businesses and individuals to a near obligation to disregard 5th Amendment rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution (the protection against self-incrimination). It arbitrarily allows accusers to subjectively determine the outcome of a complaint. The Ordinance is also defective in its subjective definition of “gender,” which allows an individual claiming rights under the ordinance to determine whether he or she is male or female irrespective of anatomy at birth.Essentially, an anatomical male can “self-identify” as female without any objective criteria to determine or challenge such identity. These problems are fatal to the ordinance.

In addition to being legally flawed, the ordinance will imperil and risk the safety of women and children in bathrooms, locker rooms and changing rooms. There is nothing in the ordinance that requires a male to be transgender. As written, any man can self-identify as female to gain access to public accommodations. Also, there is nothing in the ordinance that requires the self-identity to have been of long-standing existence or a lifelong characteristic. As such, there is no way for a police officer or business owner to know if any man is in the bathroom because he is transgender or is in the facility to do harm to a woman or child. Mothers, children, women and grandmothers deserve to feel safe in bathrooms and locker rooms and should not have to play “gender police”while using facilities.

Critics of my position assert that no such problems have arisen in other cities in which these laws have been passed. This criticism is factually incorrect because there have been numerous incidents with pedophiles and rapists attacking women in bathrooms. Here are links to a number of different examples from all across the nation:

In addition, the critics choose to ignore the substantial differences between the City of Houston’s dangerous ordinance and laws in other cities. For example, the Fort Worth ordinance expressly excludes bathrooms and women’s locker rooms – thus protecting against the risk of predators entering these areas with legal permission. Other city ordinances have also provided that the ordinance does not control private bathroom and female locker room use. Houston’s present mayor and legal department chose to ignore these safer provisions in other laws. Still, other critics complain that the absence of any cases of molestations and rapes in bathrooms should justify the passing of this law. Despite being factually false, this argument would require the rape of a child or woman in a bathroom before getting rid of an obviously dangerous law. The drafting of a criminal statute is intended to prevent and deter wrongful conduct, not for preview a foreseeable and certain danger before eliminating an obviously dangerous law. It is not necessary for a murder to occur to justify a law that punishes murderers. Similarly, it is not necessary to have a child or woman raped before exposing the dangerous nature of the City’s H.E.R.O. ordinance.

True leadership requires the courage to tell the truth even when it may not be politically popular. I will not play politics with public safety.

Vote NO to City of Houston Proposition No. 1.

*Ben Hall is the only mayoral candidate who has consistently opposed the H.E.R.O. ordinance for the last three years. Hall graduated from Harvard Law School. For more than 10 years, he has been repeatedly recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer in Texas Monthly magazine. Dual board-certified in Texas in civil trial law and personal injury trial law, he is the owner of the nationally-recognized Hall Law Firm and has taught at all three (3) Houston law schools.