Houston, Texas might soon vote down HERO, legislation that was passed to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in housing, employment, and more. However, advocates are hoping that one mega star can come to their rescue: Beyoncé.
Although HERO was passed in 2014 by Houston’s city council, opponents of LGBTQ rights have been working hard to put HERO’s repeal on the ballot. In July, the Texas Supreme Court made this an imminent reality, leaving advocates with only two options: repeal HERO or put it on the ballot.
In order to convince Houston to vote for the civil rights of the LGBTQ population, Carlos Maza, the LGBT Program Director of Media Matters, wrote an appeal to Beyoncé in the Huffington Post to support HERO on her Instagram, which currently has 42.2 million followers.
Maza explained to NBC OUT just how important this bill was for LGBTQ communities in Houston and the rest of the country.
“It really does protect all kinds of people from ugly discrimination. Bills like HERO should be happening at the federal level too. It's the first really big equality fight after marriage and it is showing everyone across the nation that there’s more work to be done.”
For Maza, the reasons to choose Beyoncé were endless. Beyoncé is from Houston, so she has a special influence over her hometown. She has continually showed her support for the LGBTQ community and Maza believes she is “an ally through and through.” Finally, Mike Huckabee, who insulted her a few months ago, is a huge opponent of HERO. To Maza, it seemed Beyoncé would be a perfect ambassador for the cause.
Although he is excited by the response his article has received, he says he gives an incredible amount of credit to the activists on the ground, specifically Christina Gorczynski and Ismael Melendez.
“They have been so unbelievable in making this into a national story,” Maza said. “People like Christina Gorczynski and Ismael Melendez have been exposed to the worst of the anti-LGBT propaganda and still are working so hard every day for HERO.”
In fact, Melendez started #BeyBeAHero on August 3rd after Maza’s call to action and it has since gone viral.
Maza identified low voter turn out as one of the major reasons these measures do not pass, which is exactly why heightening attention to this bill is so very important. Furthermore, the tactics opponents of LGBTQ rights use during ballot campaigns have, time and again, proven effective with moderate people on the fence about which way to vote.
“Every time we have one of these fights, opponents will invest lots of money into print and TV ads that depict LGBT people as sexual predators,” Maza explained. “They'll peddle lies about how the ordinance violates religious freedom, forces churches to do things that contradict their faith, and normalizes deviant sexual behavior. All of these claims have been proven untrue.”
Media Matters produced a post tackling the five major myths that anti-LGBTQ organizers use during these campaigns. Maza emphasized to NBC OUT just how traumatic these dishonest campaigns can be for LGBTQ people who have to live with offensive ads every day.
“Research shows that when these fights take place, the negative campaigning is traumatic and causes stress, depression, and anxiety. So, you’re an LGBT person and you see ads calling you a sexual predator. It has concrete negative effects on your mental health…As someone who has seen these ads, they are extremely dehumanizing and treat people like monsters.”
This is a why a shout out from Beyoncé would be an effective way to increase voter turnout, convince moderates who look up to Beyoncé to vote for HERO, and give LGBTQ Houstonians encouragement during a campaign that attempts to tear apart their character.
“Beyoncé is a super star. She doesn't need to worry about discrimination, but that is her hometown and the ones in that community do face discrimination,” Maza told NBC OUT. “Recognizing her power and using it to really improve the situation for people who are at risk of discrimination is the truest form of allyship.”