After dropping a temporary restraining order, a State District Judge has set the all important court date for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. As a result, Houstonians will not be voting on HERO in 2014. Here’s the story from Mike Morris of the Houston Chronicle…
Opponents of Houston’s equal rights ordinance dropped their request for a temporary injunction Friday that could have triggered a repeal referendum this November.
Now, their lawsuit against the city is scheduled to be heard Jan. 19, 2015, a trial date ordinance opponents called “expedited” and among the reasons they agreed to withdraw the request. For the city, though, the withdrawal marks a victory in what could be a lengthy legal battle.
The injunction sought by the ordinance foes would have forced City Secretary Anna Russell to certify their petition and sent the issue to an emergency city council vote in order to get the repeal referendum on the November ballot. The group of conservative pastors and activists was also asking the city to suspend enforcement of the ordinance, though Mayor Annise Parker had already agreed to do so until a ruling is issued.
The expeditious trial date is welcome by supporters and opponents, because in the case of HERO, all parties want answers as soon as we can get them. By Parker’s order, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is still not in effect because of the anticipated legal drama, and the longer we wait to enact the law is the longer that Houstonians have to endure city-sanctioned discrimination.
But at least for now, both sides can plan their actions accordingly, knowing that they do not have to wage an aggressive ballot campaign for this November. However, there is still a possibility that the signatures could be ruled valid and HERO would then come up for a referendum in 2015… a scenario that many municipal candidates are not excited about.
Many have debated on which year would be best to have a HERO referendum, and depending on the circumstances it could be won or lost in either 2014 or 2015. The 2014 ballot would yield higher turnout than the municipal-only contest next year. But given that it’s solely a City of Houston measure, supporters of HERO are cautious, but confident they could win in any scenario. After all, this is the same electorate that supported Mayor Parker in three mayoral elections (nine if you count back to her Council Member days), even after enacting a similar non discrimination Executive Order in 2010. Any way you see it, Houston voters have shown that they support the principles of equality and fairness, which is unlikely to change.