That onslaught of lawsuits mentioned earlier this week?? Well here it comes, right on schedule.
Equality opponents really are throwing yet another lawsuit into the mix, even after they achieved their long-fought goal of getting the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance placed on the November ballot. As Katherine Driessen of the Houston Chronicle reports, this time their anger stems from the chosen ballot language…
Equal rights ordinance opponents on Friday sued Mayor Annise Parker for the second time this week, challenging the ballot language that will go to voters in November.
At issue is whether the ballot item should ask voters if they favor repealing the law or not, or if they support implementing the law or not. City Council approved sending the equal rights ordinance to voters on Wednesday, under order from the Texas Supreme Court to either repeal the law or affirm it and place it on the November ballot.
Then, City Council tackled the ballot language. Attorney Andy Taylor, who represents the opponents, told City Council he believed City Charter does not allow for a suspended ordinance — the law has been tabled, under court order — to be voted on by repeal.
The current ballot language asks “shall the city of Houston repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance” — so a supporter of the law would vote against it, and an opponent would vote in favor. In a press release, Taylor said the “Mayor decided to play games with the language in an effort to confuse voters on the effect of a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote.”
Taylor has submitted an emergency mandamus relief request to the Texas Supreme Court. In order to meet a late August deadline for ballot items, City Council has only one meeting left to re-vote on the language if ordered to do so.
Mayor Annise Parker did not respond to a request for comment but on the Houston Matters radio show Friday afternoon she said the lawsuit lacked merit. The language, she noted, was taken from a repeal referendum petition opponents submitted last summer.
At issue is careful semantics that are embedded into the Houston City Charter. On Wednesday, City Council approved the following language, based on the repeal petition’s original request…
“Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?”
But plaintiffs filed the latest lawsuit because they contend the chosen ballot language does not satisfy rules set by Charter Article VII-b., Section 3. Here is an excerpt of that…
…Immediately upon the filing of such petition the City Secretary shall do all things required by section 2(b) of this Article. Thereupon the Council shall immediately reconsider such ordinance or resolution and, if it does not entirely repeal the same, shall submit it to popular vote at the next city general election, or the Council may, in its discretion, call a special election for that purpose; and such ordinance or resolution shall not take effect unless a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon at such election shall vote in favor thereof.
In agreement with the Charter, the ordinance has been submitted immediately for reconsideration, and for popular vote. But while the Charter does say that a vote must be in favor, it does not specify clearly if all votes must be in favor of the ordinance, or in favor of repeal.
On this point, there was vigorous disagreement even among the Council table. C.O. Bradford, who supports the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, sided with the plaintiffs on the ballot language, warning that it left City officials open for such a lawsuit as filed today.
So there you have the legal wrangling, but here’s the real reason that HERO opponents (A.K.A. the Houston Area Pastor Council/ Texas Pastor Council/ US Pastor Council) want ballot language for a vote in favor of the ordinance. The entirety of their campaign has already been constructed around their side voting against the ordinance. Remember the original slogan they employed was “NO Unequal Rights”
According to sources which cannot yet be revealed by Texas Leftist, the Pastor Council has stockpiled mailers, posters, other campaign materials and possibly even media spots that they are ready to unleash against HERO. It’s likely to be an onslaught never before seen at for a local election. So taking away the ability to tell their side to “Vote NO!” foils much of those plans, and forces them to reverse course and spend money on a whole new campaign.
The “Vote NO!” arena has already been tested, and victorious. Last fall, the US Pastor Council produced a battle to defeat the Non-Discrimination Ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and won that battle with 53 percent of the vote. Repeal 119 was one of the “test markets” for persecution of local non-discrimination ordinances across the United States. Make no mistake… this is a national fight against equal rights, with Houston currently taking center stage.
Lest we forget, the persecution of equality is much more than a religious conviction for the US Pastor Council. It also puts them on the fast track to fame and fortune across the United States. Like any group that has been suddenly cast into the spotlight, they will do and say whatever they can to gain more power, money and influence. For those that support equality, this is a necessary factor to keep in mind.
Whatever the final ballot language, this November’s election just got a lot more complicated.