John M. Becker

Attempt to Force Vote on Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Fails

Filed By John M. Becker | August 05, 2014 11:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Annise Parker, Christianists, Dave Welch, employment discrimination, equal rights ordinance, housing protections, Houston, special rights

houston-skyline-downtown.jpgOpponents of Houston's new equal rights ordinance failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a referendum on the measure, city officials announced last night. In addition, City Attorney David Feldman said that irregularities in the petition rendered it void in its entirety. BuzzFeed reports:

"With respect to the referendum petition filed to repeal the 'HERO' ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook," Feldman said. "The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion."

Feldman said that out of the tens of thousands of signatures submitted, about 15,200 were found to be valid -- short of the 17,269 signatures required to bring the matter before voters in November. Opponents, organized by the No Unequal Rights coalition, claimed they had at least 30,000 valid signatures when they submitted the petitions to city officials July 3.

Houston's sweeping ordinance -- which bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as well as race, sex, ethnicity, color, national origin, age, disability, pregnancy, genetic information, family, marital or military status, and religion -- passed by a decisive margin in May over the objections of those who wanted to discriminate against queer Houstonians (mostly for religious reasons).

But opponents of equality aren't done obstructing human rights yet: Pastor Dave Welch, the head of the right-wing Houston Pastor's Council and one of the most strident anti-gay voices in Texas, told reporters yesterday that he plans to sue to block the measure:

"All we are asking is for the public to have their say. Unfortunately, this administration has once again excluded people. Complete lack of integrity. Which we're not surprised either, so we're going to pursue legal remedies and we'll see what form that takes."

He added, "We've already assembled the top elections law attorneys in the state to review this and prepare for this because unfortunately we know who we're dealing with." (Translation: special rights for anti-LGBT Christians, or else!)

In anticipation of a lawsuit, Houston Mayor Annise Parker -- the highest-profile LGBT mayor in the country and the driving force behind the Equal Rights Ordinance -- said last night that the city will delay its implementation until "these issues... work their way out." Mayor Parker added that she's confident that the city's petition verification process will be upheld by the courts.


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