Why Did Houston’s Proposition One Lose?

vote-here-woman-1436537This might seem like an off-topic post, given that Prop 1 was an anti-discrimination proposition for LGBT community, and not anything gun related, but I think it’s useful to analyze political failure and decide what lessons might be drawn from it for use in other contexts. First, I should introduce Proposition 1:

Proposition 1, would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity—criteria not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws—especially “in city employment, city services, city contracting practices, housing, public accommodations, and private employment.”

The proposition failed 39% to 61%, much to the shock of supporters. It’s failure is not a shock to me, once you break it apart and look at it. In my opinion, the failure boils down to three things. Demographics, timing, and overreach.

Let’s start with demographics. The City of Houston is about 25% white, 6% Asian, 25% Black, and 44% hispanic. The city is overwhelmingly Democratic, but supporters failed to recognize that many white Republicans are farther along to agreeing with them on these issues than black and hispanic voters. Demographically, Prop 1 faced an uphill challenge right out of the gate. Urban black and hispanic voters may vote overwhelmingly Democrat, but on social issues like this they are about as supportive as your most bible thumping evangelical GOP voter, and probably even less so in many respects.

Move on to timing. It’s really only a small minoring of people who are comfortable with rapid change. Activists can often delude themselves into thinking how strongly the population really supports their cause. There is a tendency to push too fast, and that risks a backlash. This referendum comes fresh on the heels of the cake controversies, where public opinion lags far behind support for gay marriage. The fact that Prop 1 had carve out for religious organizations and non-profits won’t really matter. There’s a tendency for the public to apply the brakes when they think activists for change are pushing too fast.

One could argue timing is really just a form of overreach, but I wanted to treat it separately. Gun rights has achieved because we were determined to not be a flash in the pan movement. We have persisted for several generations now in pushing this issue forward, often sliding backwards for periods of time; not able to achieve everything we’ve wanted. Timing is an important part of moving forward, independently of overreach.

Which brings us to overreach itself. If activists had only included sexual orientation in Proposition 1, it probably would have done much better, and perhaps even won. At this point, gays have achieved widespread tolerance and acceptance in our society. They achieved that through decades of coming out of the closet and confronting society with their existence and normality. It’s easy to discriminate against people when they are “shady deviants” (those people) who go to special clubs and bars (those places) and do “God knows what.” It’s much harder when they are family, friends, coworkers and neighbors who are mostly normal people.

Sound familiar? It should, because we have built the pro-gun movement in the same manner. How much do you think we’ve achieved in the past 20 years in demystifying gun shows? You notice how many families come these days? That’s a reward for decades of cultural normalization.

Transgender people are currently where gays were a few decades ago. While public polling shows that most people don’t have a problem with the transgendered (the public is about equally divided), I think it’s safe to say most people are still a bit uncomfortable with it. Without diving into the debate about whether this is right or not, how many companies do you think would feel comfortable putting an obvious transwoman in a public facing customer service or sales position. Now change that to a visibly butch lesbian woman, and I think you’d agree there’d be a lot more acceptance.

To put this in a Second Amendment context, transgenderism to them is what machine guns are to us. Most activists in this issue would like to ease or end the 1986 ban on machine guns, and most would also like to end NFA treatment of them as well. This is a sound anti-discrimination principle! But it’s one that just isn’t ripe yet. It may never be, even with a strong effort to demystify and mainstream.

The LGBT community enforces a conformity that would make the most rabid 2nd Amendment activist blush. We also have our own “no one gets thrown off the lifeboat” principle, but in fact we are willing to throw people off the lifeboat in order to save the ship. We’ve done it. Notice that all of the DC preemption bills floated in Congress don’t cover NFA items. Neither do any of the national reciprocity proposals. It would also be doubtful that if we managed to pass a federal law preempting state and local bans on semi-automatic “assault weapons” that the bill would not also carve out NFA items. As firearms enthusiasts, we’ve been more realistic about what can be achieved and when it the right time to achieve it. The failure of Proposition 1 is a lesson in what happens when reality is ignored and deluded activists turn a generational struggle to an immediate all or nothing game.

42 thoughts on “Why Did Houston’s Proposition One Lose?”

  1. Overreach? I’d say so. Prop 1 (and other bills of its type) should fail.

    We still have private businesses being FORCED by governments to violate their consciences to become entrepreneurs in this country. “Private accommodations”. Just think of the wedding-related businesses that have had roughshod over their rights due to the interpretation of crap like this by bureaucrats.

    Until government leaves these people alone and gets out of the business of enforcing political correctness on private businesses, I find it hard to believe there is much tolerance left for more “overreach” by homosexual activists. I have zero sympathy toward their demands until ours our respected.

    Keeping and bearing a firearm does not violate anyone else’s rights. That is where Demanding Mommies are just plan wrong, and most intelligent people know this. Even if you carry in a store with a “no guns” policy you are not harming anyone. Just like being a homosexual by itself (or with someone else) doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. So I can see where you are going in terms of perception of the “feelings” surrounding the issue, but I can’t even compare the end results from a pure “rights” perspective. We’ve had these discussions on here before, and I simply can’t square anti-discrimination laws with a libertarian perspective.

    1. Whether we’ve taken the public accommodation doctrine too far is a reasonable debate, but it’s bigger than just gays. I would argue someone’s creative and expressive labor is not a public accommodation. That solves the problem of religious accommodation.

    2. Originally, public accommodations were limited to what someone would need while traveling. So gas stations, restaurants, lunch counters, hotels, camp sites, etc. That doctrine has expanded over the years to include just about any product or service sold to the public. Generally speaking, I think that’s OK to a point. Supermarkets, malls, bakeries, flower shops, etc, all fine. If you go to a flower shop and buy an arrangement already made and offered for sale to the public, that’s a public accommodation. As soon as you ask someone to make you an arrangement, that’s the person’s expressive and creative labor, which is not a public accommodation. Same for cakes. If you buy a cake from a bakery which is pre-made and sold to the public, the bakery can’t discriminate. But as soon as you ask a baker to make you a cake, no longer a public accommodation. Same with an artist, photographer, etc. Not public accommodations.

      1. I doubt your distinction was made in this (or any) anti-discrimination Bill. That could be why these things are so wildly unpopular.

        Transgender stuff is an oddity. Creepy guys who may or may not have a mental illness hanging out in women’s bathrooms because they feel better “accommodated?” No way. Maybe that’s how prop 1 failed.

    3. The “conscience” argument, to me, doesn’t work, because people tend to only make the argument in the homosexual/transgender context. Taken to its logical conclusion, we go to a place where I don’t think many people want to be.

      For example, if proprietors of businesses could resort to their “conscience” rights over federal civil rights legislation, then all of the following would be legal:

      *Hotel owners refusing to rent rooms to unmarried couples
      *Taxi drivers refusing to drive interracial couples
      *Bakeries refusing to make cakes for Catholic weddings
      *Party venues refusing to host Bar Mitzvahs
      *Muslim landlords refusing to rent to tenants who drink alcohol

      1. The libertarian in me would be OK with many of those outcomes in the name of freedom of association. Actually, I think hotel owners are still free to deny unmarried couples rooms. I’m not sure that’s a protected class.

        A taxi is a public accommodation even under the original meaning of public accommodation.

        I think bakeries are only public accommodations to the degree they are selling a product or generic service to the public. As soon as they are selling their creative or expressive labor, they are no longer a public accommodation. If labor is a public accommodation, why wouldn’t it be lawful for an employer to sue a potential employee for turning down a job because he didn’t want to work with asians? Some labor I think can be a public accommodation, such as an auto repair garage. My preferred standard is creative or expressive services and labor are not ever public accommodations.

        I’m not sure muslim landlords can’t already ban alcohol as a condition of a lease.

        1. As long as we agree that the “conscience” argument will lead to these results, then the argument is at least logically sound. Many people, however, simply use “conscience” to object to homosexuals/transgenders, without realizing the true implications of what they are arguing.

          Also, you’re partially correct about unmarried couples. Under federal law, marital status is not a protected class. But it is under most states’ laws.

          In terms of your “expressive labor” argument, I think you are creating a distinction without a difference. I really don’t see how there is any logical difference in, for example, telling a corner grocer that they can’t discriminate against homosexuals buying the ingredients for a cake, but a baker can discriminate by refusing to bake the same people a cake.

          Lastly, your example of the worker turning down a job because he doesn’t want to work with Asians doesn’t hold water. That employee’s labor is not a public accommodation in that situation because he isn’t offering his labor to the public; he is offering it to that employer alone. If you changed the situation slightly, then it would be different. If, instead of turning down employment with a specific company, he was a plumber that offered his labor to the public, but he refused to work for Asians, then yes, it would be illegal discrimination. The key, of course, is whether the labor is being offered to the public or not.

          1. I, for one, have decided to accept “conscience” as a reasonable standard for refusal of service taken to its logical conclusion.

            Having said that, the distinction between employer and customer is artificial, to say the least. When I purchase something from a grocer or a baker, I am employing that person to provide me services–I’m just doing it a little bit at a time!

            Talking about public vs. private accommodation makes sense when talking about relationships between the Government and the People, but the distinction doesn’t make so much sense when talking about interactions between private individuals.

      2. So what does work for you exactly that doesn’t include government forcing me to lend support to a lifestyle I find abhorrent?

        1. I was just trying to point out the logical conclusion of your argument. If you’re OK with a society where businesses can refuse to provide their goods or service to people on the basis of race, sex, marital status, nationality, religion, etc., in the name of “conscience,” then your argument is logically sound.

          If, however, you simply want to the right to say no to homosexuals/transgenders, but think other types of discrimination should remain illegal, then your argument is illogical. “Conscience” must win every time, or never. Otherwise, it’s just arbitrary.

          1. Yes. I am being sound in my argument. I don’t believe government should force a business to serve, hire, etc. that would be the only consistent position of liberty.

            I do not believe in government defined “protected classes”. Do you?

  2. Public accommodation is code for men masquerading as women to use women’s bathrooms showers and lockers. See the cases in school. That is why it went down. So it was real easy. No men in women’s bathrooms.

    1. That would potentially be a result of including the transgendered. One thing I didn’t include, because it was getting long, is that the inclusion of the “T” part of LGBT in the proposition gave the opposition all the ammunition they needed to kill it.

      To me bathrooms labels are biological. If you have a penis, you belong in the men’s room. If you have a vagina, you belong in the ladies room. If you’re dedicated enough to have surgery to change that, you may pass. But to me it’s that simple.

      1. That’s a reasonable position to me. You go where your anatomy fits. Your a man till you get a chopadickoffame and a woman till you have an addadicktome …

        1. Well, if you want to make it a reasonable API looking call, something like:

          class GenderChange {
            public void ChangeMe(bool isMale) {
                if (isMale) {
                } else {
            private void chopADick() {
            private void addADick() {
          1. The use of a boolean for gender identity is too limited for today’s world.

            In order to support future and custom identity choices, we need to be able to choose identity using a mutable list of ids. Our identifyAs() method should return a GenderProvider object which could then be called (after setting provider-specific properties ) to make the actual change.

            Consider this:

            public class Gender {
            public transient GenderProvider identifyAs(GenderIdentity identity) {...}

            public class GenderIdentity {

            public static byte MALE = 0x00;
            public static byte FEMALE = 0x01;
            public static byte JENNER = 0x02;


            You see, now we can support more than the cis-normative (and oppressive) labels of male or female. Here we added the “Jenner” type, but we can add many more. The only limitation I see here is the use of a simple 8-bit byte to identify our identities. That’s only 256 flavors. Perhaps we should consider something like a 64-bit float. That’ll cover multiple ids for every person on earth.


            public void implementFlavorOfTheMonth(){
            GenderProvider shemaleProvider = Gender.identifyAs(GenderIdentity.FEMALE);



            Our first API should be marked as beta and deprecated, much like our original understanding of sexual identity has been marked the same.

  3. Fairfax County VA school board was told by the Federal government that they had to put in anti discrimination for transgendered teachers. for elementary school. Now you can guess how that went over to parents.

    1. Yep. Can you imagine that much outrage over a gay teacher? That shows how far away transgendered are from what homosexuals have achieved. Again, the analogy for machine guns works. It may be that transgenders can achieve the same acceptance as homosexuals. It may be that we can get the public as accepting of machine guns as semi-automatics. But it’s not a fore drawn conclusion, and it’s no use pretending that The T in LGBT is at the same place homosexuals are today. Same with assuming a lack of will is the only reason we can’t repeal the Hughes Amendment. There’s a lot of groundwork needed if that’s going to become feasible.

      1. Again, though, see “right to keep and bear arms” as not infringing on the rights of others. Machine guns or otherwise. And most don’t see the difference between them anyway. Look at the media and most politicians for instance. Gays versus trans… I think more see the difference there but even then I actually think there’s more equivocation there than you think.

        Somehow I think an infringement on the rights of others correctly fits the bill when government forces private business to cater, serve, and hire who they are told. OR when government tells us what kind of guns we can and can’t have that others (police) can.

        1. You have a beef with anti-discrimination bills that regulate private conduct. I understand that, and the libertarian idealist in me would even agree. But Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t do him any favors, and I don’t think Goldwater’s position has gotten much more popular since. I don’t think CRA 64 is really up for debate, so then it comes down to which classes are deserving of protection.

          Pretty clearly getting added as a protected class will be the next battle for the gay community, after gay marriage. Public opinion seems to be aligned with that for the most part, but with exceptions for people with bonafide religious objections. Except those religious objections are not part of the current framework. My basic argument is that the problem the gay rights movement will face is public accommodation has been interpreted way too broadly, and will be the biggest obstacle for them becoming a protected class. Transgender people are only at the very beginning of their struggle. I’m wondering how long before the gay rights movement throws them off the lifeboat, because it’s interfering with their own goals. When you include gender identity, then you get the absurd results like penises in ladies rooms.

      2. I would refuse to have a transgendered teacher teach my children. To me anyone who is confused as to their basic sexual identity is not mentally sound. I would pull my child and home schoolor private school. This also will push more people to remove children from schools. What is happening to the Illinois school is risking and invading the privacy of the girl students. These males are playing a game. Even Bruce Jenner has not had his penis whacked off He is still male no matter how he tries to look female. Besides he is still attracted to women. So is he now a lesbian or straight?

      3. “Can you imagine that much outrage over a gay teacher?”

        I’m under 40, and I don’t have to imagine that much outrage over a gay teacher, because I have seen it. I have also known gay teachers who were very, very, VERY careful about who they came out to, because if they came out to the wrong person they would lose their jobs, their careers, and probably the ability to continue to live safely in their homes.

      4. One thing the transgendered have to fight against which the gay community did not is opposition from an important ally on the Left, radical feminists.

        It’s very interesting to see how hostile radical feminists are to men who are trying to become women, because as far as the feminists are concerned the transgendered will always be just men, men who are trying to assume rights which should only belong to women.

        I expect we shall see more clashes of this nature as one element of the Left wing political coalition comes into direct conflict with a different element: Unions vs Environmentalists, Blacks vs La Raza, Hollywood vs anti-“hate speech” advocates.

  4. Sebastian, you are ignoring the elephant in the room: the huge trek to the polls by generally conservative voters repulsed by the Democrats’ vicious, hateful, and (rhetorically, at least) genocidal pogrom against lawful gun owners.

    I realize that not all, and maybe not even most, 2nd Amendment single-issue voters oppose the Houston proposal (or, to give another example, the Ohio pot referendum), but due to historical reasons, they are more likely to oppose these than the population as a whole. I would love to have the OH question pass; but the Nazi-like anti-gun parasites bring down ALL causes even remotely associated with the Left.

    1. Houston is a pretty Democratic city. The last Dem mayor won with about 57% of the vote, and the City itself, if you remove the rest of Harris County, went for Obama by about 61%. So we’re not talking a very GOP friendly jurisdiction.

      1. True, but as you pointed out, the Dem vote is not necessarily a bloc vote for this measure. The measure might have still failed if not for the vileness of the gun control supporters, but in all probability it wouldn’t have been stomped the way it was.

        Keep in mind that the kind of “Republicans” (many of them not registered Republicans) who were motivated to come to the polls in this election were considerably more conservative than the average Republican. These weren’t Chamber of Commerce types. These were blue collar workers, and war veterans.

    2. I’ll point out that the only take-away from the Ohio Pot Amendment this time around is that Monopolies are BAD. You had some Ohio pro-legalization groups coming out against this bill because it enshrined a very limited monopoly of growers in the Ohio constitution. It was that bad of a amendment.
      It was definitely NOT a conservative/progressive referendum this year.

      1. Yes. “We will agree to legalize weed, but only if there’s sufficient opportunities for graft.”

        It’s how we legalized gambling in Pennsylvania.

        1. That is also how the legalized gambling in Ohio So the legislature came up with the amendment that no cartels,
          monopolies can be established by referendum

    1. Yeah, she’s a nut job. I have little doubt that did not help things. That would also be in the overreach category.

  5. As a vaguely related aside: four decades ago, “blue collar conservative” sounded as strange as “transgender conservative” does today. Conservatives were accountants who called the cops when somebody gave them trouble. Nowadays, thanks to the 2nd Amendment issue, “blue collar conservative” seems redundant.

  6. IMO, this entire fight is a rather explicit proof that once a group or movement achieves their stated goal, they won’t just go away, they will shift to a new one.

    There exists an entire industry that was created to support, push for and implement gay marriage and “equality”… Now that they have gotten there, to just pack up and go home would mean killing the cash cow.

    So too will the same thing occur with the gun control groups… Even if you handed them every single item they wanted, they would just have a new list of wants the next day. Anything less would result in some very well paid people not getting their stipends any longer.

    1. I’m half afraid that the same thing can happen to Gun Rights groups. Fortunately for the NRA at least, we have one factor in our favor: the NRA started out as an education and recruitment organization, and belatedly adopted gun rights to defend the core of its activities.

      Anti-gun groups (and grievance groups in general) have no such core to fall back on.

    2. The pattern you describe most definitely applies to MADD and the environmentalist movement.

      Though I think the pattern isn’t driven by lobbyists greed for money as much as it is driven by the human thirst for power.

  7. Under freedom of association, private business and institutions should never be required by the law to serve or hire individuals the institution does not to deal with.

    Government institutions are a different story.

  8. Another lesson here we need to understand:

    These Democrat voters slammed this bill because they didn’t agree with the specifics of it, but they’re still going to vote for Democrat politicians that will put these rules in place as soon as they can. And those Dems will keep supporting these issues because it works well with the money donating members of their base and doesn’t seriously hurt them vote-wise.

    In the same way a lot of people who support gun rights will keep voting in Democrats who oppose them, and Dems will keep supporting gun control for the same reasons listed above.

    We’ve GOT to vote out every Democrat we can so long as the Democrat establishment is all in for gun control. Which means no matter what you think about your Republican candidate and their stand on social issues, if you don’t vote for them you’re voting for gun control.

    If we can hit the Dems back in a few national elections post Obama and they remove gun control from their platform, then we can go back to choosing on a candidate-by-cadidate basis. Until that time … if you’re not voting Republican, you’re voting anti-gun.

    1. As they’ve shown already, they will never go away. Statists are going to be statists.

  9. I’m sick of protected government classes. The only class should be the American class.

  10. Businesses refuse services all the time. Just the other day I had about eight plumbers refuse service to me before I got one who would come out. I can make a strong presumption that it was because they were too busy, but I don’t know that. Maybe they don’t service my gender. I think it’s a big mess to try and make law about the reason services can be denied. What if a baker refuses services to a gay couple because they are too busy, so they get used and now have to prove in court that they were too busy? I am sure there are high end wedding photographers who are highly selective on the clients they accept for frivolous reasons like how “important” and high-profile the wedding is. Retail goods in a public shop is another matter, but when you’re talking about custom service- yes, businesses have a right to refuse service.

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