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Simon’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: Referendum Rally (1985)

Laurel Powers

Sound | 1985

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  •  Before the show begins, Councilman George Greanias asks for the crowd’s support in an upcoming referendum regarding a pair of city ordinances. Passed on June 19, 1984, the Domestic Privacy in Employment Ordinance amended both the Civil Service Ordinance and the Affirmative Action Plan to ban job discrimination against city employees on the basis of sexual orientation. Opponents subsequently gathered enough signatures to force a citywide referendum. During a municipal election on January 19, 1985, voters ultimately opposed the measures by a four-to-one margin. The Houston City Council passed similar non-discrimination ordinances in 2001 and 2014. Both were also undone by referendum. As a result, city employees remain unprotected from job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.  
  •  Councilman John Goodner led the opposition to the ordinance, saying at one council meeting, “Although I can’t prove scientifically what I don’t like about this gay issue, I also can’t prove scientifically why I don’t like squash.”  
  •  On December 18, 1984, the executive committee of what was then the Houston Chamber of Commerce unanimously voted to oppose the ordinances. Should the Houston City Council not reverse its earlier decision, the Chamber also promised to work with opposing forces to defeat the referendum. In response, Mayor Kathy Whitmire denounced the Chamber for taking “the side of bigotry and intolerance.” 
  •  “Are you going to tell Louie Welch that he’s not mayor of Houston anymore?” Welch served as mayor from 1964 to 1973. In 1985, he was Houston Chamber of Commerce president. Welch ran for mayor again later that year, campaigning on his opposition to the gay rights ordinances. On October 24, he appeared on a live television newscast to discuss his four-point plan to prevent the spread of AIDS. As the anchor previewed the report, Welch—unaware that his microphone was on—notoriously remarked, “One of them is to shoot the queers.” The gaffe assured his defeat, with Whitmire winning reelection.  
  •  Greanias introduces Barbara Goldfield, finance chair for the pro-ordinance campaign organization, Citizens for a United Houston 
  •  Show creator Simon Bainbridge emerges from backstage 
  •  Jo Carter, known as “Mama Jo,” owner of The Ranch 
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This home video captures a performance of Simon’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, a drag revue of songs from the stage and film musical. The benefit production was held at The Ranch in Houston on January 13, 1985, to raise money in support of two non-discrimination ordinances proposed by the Houston City Council. A referendum considering the measures would take place the following week. In this segment, Councilman George Greanias and pro-ordinance campaign finance chair Barbara Goldfield address the crowd before the show to encourage votes and donations. Simon Bainbridge created the drag revue in 1982. The production soon evolved into a regular fundraiser for LGBTQ causes. Performed in Houston and across Texas for over two decades, Simon’s Best Little Whorehouse in Texas reportedly raised more than a quarter of a million dollars for local AIDS charities and LGBTQ organizations.