Saturday, July 25, 2015

#HERO Interrupted - Texas Supreme Court Ruling

Yesterday the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. This comes as Dave Wilson's law suit to change the city charter with his rejected petition that was signed and supported by Mayoral candidate Ben Hall. You can read what I wrote about from that angle HERE and HERE. In its ruling the court ordered the Houston City Council to repeal an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance it passed in 2014 or put a referendum opponents had sought on this November’s ballot.

 “Once the City Council received the City Secretary’s certification, it had a ministerial duty to act,” the court stated. “If the City Council does not repeal the ordinance by August 24, 2015, then by that date the City Council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election.” 

Here is Texas Supreme court ruling: http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1047360/140667.pdf

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Here is some background on HERO:

During the first half of 2014 the effort to passed  HERO was under way and it was met with delays, protests and support. The ordinance on the table would protect 15 classes of citizens and give a way to affordably challenge those who commit discrimination.

*Houston Equal Rights Ordinance provides protections in employment (both public and private), housing and public accommodations for the following classes:

- sex                          - age                                         - disability
- race                         - familial status                        - sexual orientation
- color                        - marital status                         - genetic information
- ethnicity                  - military status                        - gender identity
- national origin         - religion                                  - pregnancy

Here is the Ordinance:




Since its passage in an 11-6 vote of the City Council on May 28, 2014:


In July, after thirty days of collecting signatures, opponents of the ordinance turned in a petition that they claimed to be  more than the minimum number of signatures needed to trigger a November 2014 vote on whether to repeal the measure. Once the city received the petition, the City Secretary's office had 30 days to verify the alleged 50,000 signatures that HERO opponents collected.  The required minimum threshold to beat HERO was 17,269 signatures from registered Houston voters. The issue that opponents attacked the ordinance for, boiled down to the protections it extends to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and  mainly transgender residents.



They basically used the "the man dressed as a woman to rape women and children" argument which is disproven by this:

Houston Penal Code: Sec. 28-20. Entering restrooms of opposite sex.permanent link to this piece of content It shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person's sex without the permission of the owner, tenant, manager, lessee or other person in charge of the premises, in a manner calculated to cause a disturbance. (Code 1968, § 28-42.6; Ord. No. 72-904, § 2, 6-2-72)

The community got together to do an independent count and verification of the signatures and by or count, there was fraud, forgeries and etc.  Then in the first week of August, in compliance with the city rules, Mayor Annise Parker and then City Attorney Dave Feldman released their findings on the petition count. As I was at the press conference here is what Feldman had to say: "There are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid." With that statement the signatures were declared to be invalidated:



We expected a court battle and got one, the lawsuit was immediately filed:


In between the filing and the final ruling this is what happened:



In this trail there was a jury verdict and a final ruling by judge Schaffer:


The rest is history....