The Rothko Chapel Supports HERO: Nonprofit Considers Houston’s Critical Human Rights Vote

The Rothko Chapel has announced its support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) – a measure that will come on the ballot as Proposition 1 in the November election. The city ordinance, introduced by Mayor Annise Parker last year, protects residents from any type of discrimination based on “sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy.” 

As Texas is one of more than 20 states that does not have a law to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, Houston voters will be asked to decide whether the ordinance stays in place or is eliminated on Election Day, Nov. 3.

The Rothko Chapel decided to take a stand on the issue during its regular board meeting on Friday, Sept. 18 – voting unanimously to support HERO and join Houston Unites, a coalition dedicated to campaigning for a vote to protect the ordinance. Leading partners and supporters include the ACLU of Texas, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP Houston Branch, Greater Houston Partnership, Anti-Defamation League, National Council of Jewish Women, Unitarian Universalist Voice for Justice and Cathedral of Hope.  

David Leslie, executive director of the Chapel, said the nonprofit’s board began discussing the issue over the summer, when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that Houston’s City Council either needed to repeal HERO or place it on the November ballot. “The City Council voted to put it on the ballot,” Leslie said. “Our ultimate decision to support the measure rested on the Chapel’s long record in support of human rights and a belief that this is one of the most important human rights issues that Houston has faced in last decade.”

Rothko Chapel representatives attended the Houston Unites faith leaders breakfast Thursday, Sept. 24 and then will be working with the coalition to support Proposition 1 including helping to clear up mischaracterizations about the ordinance. “Hopefully, our support will add another important interfaith and human rights voice in support of HERO communicating that protecting all from unfair discrimination is an important issue for all Houstonians,” Leslie said.

He explained that the Rothko Chapel’s mission is to inspire people to action through art and contemplation, to nurture reverence for the highest aspirations of humanity, and to provide a forum for global concerns.

“The Rothko Chapel welcomes and values deeply the dignity, worth and rights of all people,” Leslie said.  “These principles are seen clearly in the genesis of the Chapel, as well as in the programming we do which brings together people from different backgrounds and sectors for dialogue, prayer or reflection and work on common issues.” 

He added that the Chapel’s public outreach efforts call attention to people living on the margins – social, religious, economic and political – and focus on programs to lift them up. “It seems not just appropriate but necessary that the Chapel support HERO -- especially since it is an equal rights ordinance that supports that equal rights of all people,” Leslie said. “There are similar ordinances in more than 200 cities throughout the U.S. -- including other cities in Texas”

“The Rothko Chapel is committed to building an inclusive and welcoming city where there is no room for covert or overt discrimination,” Leslie said. For more information about the Rothko Chapel, visit or call 713-524-9839.

About the Rothko Chapel

The Rothko Chapel, located at 1409 Sul Ross St, is open to the public every day of the year at no charge and successfully interconnects art, spirituality and compassionate action through a broad array of free public programs. Founded by Houston philanthropists Dominique and John de Menil, the Chapel was dedicated in 197 as an intimate sanctuary. Today it stands as a monument to art, spirituality and human rights. As an independent non-profit, non-governmental organization, the Chapel depends on contributions from foundations and individuals to support its mission of creating a space for contemplation and dialogue on important issues.