Petition to Repeal Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) Fails

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Today Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced that a petition to repeal a nondiscrimination ordinance for the LGBT community, called HERO, has failed.

The measure passed on a vote of 11-6, but officials were prevented from enforcing the policy until the decision on the validity of the petitions were determined.

Opponents of “HERO” were attempting to get just over 17,000 valid signatures in order to force the city council to either repeal the ordinance or put the question to the voters in November.

The opening lines of the news release out of the Mayor’s office read:

    “The petition to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance adopted by City Council in May has fallen short of the City Charter and Texas Election Code requirements for a voter referendum. As a result, the ordinance will not be reconsidered by City Council or placed on the ballot.”

On Friday City Attorney David Feldman said that it appeared that many of the over 5,000 pages with more than 30,000 signatures seemed questionable with regards to the requirements laid out in the city charter.

Issues with a large number of the petitions included: petition circulators who were not valid Houston voters, signatures that were collected from non-Houstonians, and some valid signatures that were collected before the first official day of June 3rd.

In the end the City Attorney reported that only 2,449 of the 5,199 pages qualified for consideration putting the number of valid signatures at 15,249, and leaving it short of the 17,269 that were required.

Opponents, not surprisingly, used their religious beliefs to oppose adding gender identity as a protected class instead of the “gender they were created by God.”

Equal Rights Houston, a citywide coalition of HERO supporters that includes Equality Texas, issued the following statement:

    Opponents of equal rights failed to submit the required number of valid petitions for one reason and one reason only: Houston is a city that doesn’t discriminate.

    Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance modernized our nondiscrimination laws in a balanced way with the support of the broadest coalition of Houstonians – from the Greater Houston Partnership to the NAACP, Rice University, LULAC, the GLBT Caucus, the League of Women Voters, the Houston Chronicle, public safety professionals and faith leaders.

    The Equal Rights Houston campaign will defend against any attempts, whether in the courts or at the ballot box, to overturn the basic, common sense protections the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance provides to all who live and work in our great city!

Mayor Parker said she fully expects, “the petitioners will want to fight this decision at the courthouse,” but that the review conducted by the city has been done fairly and she was confident that the results would be upheld.

    “I am confident the courts will agree that the rules set out in our Charter and state law to protect the integrity of the process should be followed and that the results of our review will be upheld.  The judicial review will provide additional assurance to the voters that the process has been fair.”

Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

About Author

Joe Deshotel

Joe was born and raised in Beaumont, Tx, but live music and politics brought him to Austin. He has worked in and around government and elections for over a decade including for a member of US Congress, the Texas Legislature, the Mayor of Austin. He currently serves as Communications Director for the Travis County Democratic Party. He is most interested in transportation, energy and technology issues. He also likes Texas Hold'em and commuting on his electric skateboard. Follow me on Twitter at @joethepleb.

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