The city should know by the end of next week whether opponents of Houston’s equal rights ordinance gathered enough valid signatures to spur a November vote aimed at repealing the law, City Attorney David Feldman told council members Friday.
Feldman and the City Secretary’s office have been looking through more than 5,000 pages of signatures — 50,000 total, according to opponents — since they were turned in July 3. The city has 30 days from the turn-in date to verify those names. Opponents need a minimum of 17,269 valid signatures to put a referendum on the November ballot.
The non-discrimination ordinance was approved by an 11-6 vote of council in May.
Among the top issues city staff must verify is whether the people who signed the petition and the people who gathered the signatures are registered Houston voters.
“The process is not moving as fast as I thought it would,” Feldman said. Friday’s meeting was called earlier in the week when it appeared the city attorney would have a more definitive update. But it’s a “meticulous,” time consuming process, Feldman said, and he had no signicant news to deliver to the Council Committee on Ethics, Elections and Council Governance.
Most of the contention around the ordinance stems from the protections it extends to gay and transgender residents, groups not already protected under federal laws barring discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.
Dave Welch, of the Houston Area Pastor Council, said he is confident opponents gathered enough valid signatures and that voters will repeal the ordinance if it goes to the ballot. Mayor Annise Parker, who championed the ordinance, has said she believe voters would uphold the council’s decision.