The nation’s largest LGBT political advocacy group indicated this week it is unlikely to help defend a nondiscrimination ordinance in Plano due to exemptions affecting the transgender community.
The announcement from the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign could amount to a costly setback for supporters of the ordinance, as the organization recently poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into a similar fight in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Opponents of the ordinance say they turned in petitions Tuesday with over 7,000 signatures—almost double the number needed to force the City Council to overturn the measure or place it on the ballot in May. Plano officials expect to complete the process of verifying the signatures by the end of this month.
Cathryn Oakley, HRC’s legislative counsel for state and municipal advocacy, told the Observer on Thursday that the organization hasn’t made a final decision about its role if the ordinance appears on the ballot. However, Oakley also made clear that HRC would be reluctant to join the fight due to exemptions including one that appears to bar people from using public restrooms according to their gender identity—a provision which she called “transphobic.”
“The language in Plano is very problematic and in terms of investing a lot of resources in an ordinance that has a lot of problems, it’s difficult to see why that’s necessarily the best use of resources,” Oakley said. “If we had been consulted in the drafting of this bill, we would have withdrawn our support, and given that, it’s hard to justify defending it as valid.”
After being approved in a 5-3 council vote on Dec. 8, the Plano ordinance immediately became the target of a repeal effort led by Texas Values, the Texas Pastor Council, the Liberty Institute and Prestonwood Baptist Church. Republican state lawmakers from Plano also say they’re drafting legislation to prohibit Texas cities from adopting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances and nullify those already in place.