Texas Supreme Court Says HERO Must Be Placed On November Ballot

The Conservative-leaning Supreme Court of Texas has sided with anti-Equality plaintiffs in a Friday morning ruling.  Here’s the story from Rebecca Elliott of the Houston Chronicle

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Houston City Council must repeal the city’s equal rights ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling comes three months after a state district judge ruled that opponents of Houston’s contentious non-discrimination ordinance passed last year  failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum.

“We agree with the Relators that the City Secretary certified their petition and thereby invoked
the City Council’s ministerial duty to reconsider and repeal the ordinance or submit it to popular
vote,” the Texas Supreme Court wrote in a per curiam opinion. “The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored.”

The city’s equal right ordinance bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.

Houston City Council has 30 days to repeal the ordinance or place it on the November ballot.

The ruling overturns a lower court decision of the district court.  It also seems to ignore copious evidence submitted by the city that proved the petitions were wrought with fallacies, including not listing the resident county of the signee, some pages that may have been forged, and other issues.

petition p1

A sample page from the original petition to place HERO on the ballot reveals that plantiffs did not comply with Texas Election Code which governs how petitions must be submitted.  

Oddly enough in the full text of the Texas Supreme Court opinion, the author even makes explicit mention of the rules governing how citizens must submit petitions.  One has to wonder if the court actually saw the document before issuing their decision.

During the 30 day decision period, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance has been suspended, effective immediately per the ruling.

This is breaking news, so check back later for more.

Sandra Bland’s ‘Arrest’ Was A Violation of Her Rights

At this point, so many things have been said about the tragic arrest, detention, and mysterious death of Sandra Bland, there are probably few readers that haven’t at least heard of the story.  The young woman, a graduate and soon-to-be employee of Prairie View A&M University, was sent to jail from what should have been a traffic stop.

But video of that first encounter reveals some serious problems occurred before Ms. Bland was placed in Waller County Jail.

As the Texas Standard reports, the dashcam video makes it perfectly clear that officer Brian Encinia violated Bland’s rights…


Questions, in the wake of the video: What are the rules? Not policies or politeness –  specifically, what are your rights when you’re pulled over by police?

Jim Harrington, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, speaks with Texas Standard about the footage of the arrest, point-by-point. Here’s a transcript of the conversation, edited for brevity and clarity:

The trooper asks, “You mind putting out your cigarette please?” And Ms. Bland says, “Well, I’m in my car – why do I have to put out my cigarette?” Does she have to put out her cigarette?

“No, she doesn’t have to put out her cigarette. And you wonder why the officer is even bothering with that. This is part of his escalation of the whole event that unfolded, unfortunately.”

The next part: “Step out of the car.” Ms. Bland says, “You do not have the right.” He interrupts – “I do have the right, step out of the car or I will remove you.” Does he have the right, first, to order her to step out of the car, and second, to actually physically remove her from the car?

“He does not have the right to say get out of the car. He has to express some reason. ‘I need to search your car,’ or, whatever; he needs to give a reason. He can’t just say ‘get out of the car’ for a traffic offense.”

It’s one thing to say he has a reason; it’s another to say he has to give a reason. He may have had probable cause, or thought he had it, we don’t know. Does he have to state it?

“He doesn’t have to state probable cause; he has to state some reason … And that’s part of the training that he should have had about how to de-escalate a situation. She’s clearly upset about what happened, particularly – as we know later on – that she moved over because he was tailing her. … He should be working on de-escalation. That’s the key. ”

It’s difficult to know all the facts regarding the Sandra Bland case once she was taken to Waller County jail.  But this video does not lie.  Still, it’s true that many people have different opinions of the situation.  Why didn’t Sandra Bland comply with the officer’s requests?

But here’s a critical fact in this case… her decision whether or not to comply with officer Encinia should not matter.  In that moment while Encinia was wearing the badge of law enforcement, it was his responsibility to follow the law and respect Ms. Bland’s rights, whether she knew them or not, and whether she was “compliant” or not.  It was also his responsibility not to escalate the situation further.  Does officer Encinia cart every single person that makes a rude comment within his earshot to jail?  Would any of us in our jobs be allowed such power as to control what other people say and think??  He did not have to like Sandra Bland, but he did have to respect her rights, including her right to say things that he doesn’t like.

Currently, officer Encinia is currently on administrative leave.  As the situation develops and more pressure is placed upon Waller County, it will interesting to see if he faces any charges for his behavior in the situation.