BY CARLOS MAZA
Houston is on the verge of legalizing discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. With a single Instagram post, Beyoncé could help make sure her hometown doesn’t repeal protections for LGBT Houstonians this November.
For the past 15 months, the city of Houston has been caught in a legal battle over the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance, known as “HERO.” The ordinance, which was passed by the city council in April of 2014, bans discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing, public accommodations like hotels and restaurants and other areas.
That means Houston is in for a nasty, dishonest, and divisive campaign to repeal HERO and legalize discrimination against LGBT Houstonians. These kinds of campaigns don’t usually end well for queer people: they’re dehumanizing, traumatic, and usually result in LGBT folks losing their basic civil rights.
But that could change if the world’s proudest and most famous Houstonian decides to stand up for her LGBT fans and speak out in favor of keeping the legislation. With a single post to her over 40 million Instagram followers, Beyoncé could change the debate over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance and mobilize support for protecting LGBT Houstonians from discrimination.
Beyoncé is no stranger to wading into political battles. In April, she used her Instagram to draw attention to the death of Freddie Gray and urged followers to donate to the NAACP’s effort to help “those affected by the unrest in Baltimore,” posts that racked up hundreds of thousands of likes. More recently, she and husband Jay-Z were criticized for reportedly giving money to pay bail for #BlackLivesMatter protesters in Ferguson and Baltimore. She’s spoken out against sexism and gender-based discrimination, criticizing gender inequality and unequal pay in the workplace.
Beyoncé has also been open about her support for the LGBT community, publicly celebrating her gay fans’ “confidence and fearlessness.” In 2013, she expressed her public support for marriage equality in an Instagram post featuring a note that read: “If you like it, you should be able to put a ring on it.” The post got over 200,000 likes:
Beyoncé echoed her support for LGBT equality in a 2014 Out magazine interview about her fifth album. Asked if her lyrics were written with the LGBT community in mind, she said:
[W]hat I’m really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man. So I’m very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority… We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love.
And in July, the pop star celebrated the Supreme Court‘s historic marriage equality decision with a rainbow-themed Instagram video captioned “#LoveWins.” That video has since earned over a million likes.
Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, but it suffers from incredibly low voter turnout, especially during non-presidential election cycles. A few thousand votes will likely decide whether HERO lives or dies. Given the amount of attention that Beyoncé’s support for the LGBT community has gotten in the past, it’s not hard to imagine the kind of positive impact her support for HERO might have on a local election.
What’s more, defending HERO would pit Beyoncé against one of her biggest right-wing critics: GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. In January, Huckabee made headlines with a “stupid, racist attack,” criticizing Beyoncé for daring to mention sex in her lyrics. Huckabee has been one of HERO’s loudest opponents, using his national platform to lie about the ordinance and defend anti-LGBT discrimination.
The campaign to get Houston voters to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination is just beginning. Beyoncé has an unprecedented opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of LGBT people in her hometown. By speaking out in defense of HERO and opposing the effort to repeal the law, she could dramatically change the outcome of the vote in November. She could help make sure that LGBT Houstonians aren’t fired, kicked out of their homes, or refused service at restaurants because of who they are. And she could reaffirm that her support for the LGBT community isn’t just talk—it’s a real commitment to the equal treatment of all Americans.
Beyoncé, your hometown needs its HERO.
Carlos Maza is the LGBT Program Director at Media Matters. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2010 with a degree in political science.
This article was originally featured on Huffington Post Gay Voices and reposted with permission.
Screengrab via Beyonce/YouTube