Court Hearing Scheduled On Equal Rights Ordinance Recall Petition

Aug. 8, 2014Houston Public Media

Houston’s new Equal Rights Ordinance is headed for a showdown in court next week. At issue is whether opponents seeking to overturn the ordinance submitted enough valid signatures to put the measure on November’s ballot.

The city wanted the case heard in federal court but it’s been transferred to state court, and there’s a hearing next Friday, August 15.

A judge also issued a temporary restraining order putting the ordinance on hold, but Mayor Annise Parker said the city wouldn’t start enforcing the ordinance until legal issues were resolved.

Pastor Steve Riggle of Grace Community Church is part of a coalition fighting the ordinance. He claims the city didn’t follow proper procedure by letting the city attorney certify the petitions.

“We would like to question David Feldman inserting himself in the process when there’s no place in the charter mentioned that that’s his place. Certifying this process, according to the city charter, is to be done by the City Secretary.”

Janice Evans is Mayor Parker’s Chief Policy Officer. She says the city did nothing wrong.

“It’s the same policy we followed in 1996 when we had a similar referendum that was wanting to be on the ballot. The difference between now and then, is that in that situation, the petitioners had enough valid petitions even after those that were invalid had been thrown out.”

The city says the recall petition fell about 2,200 names short of what was needed to put the issue before voters.

Those against the ordinance take issue with protections for gay and transgendered people. Supporters say the ordinance guarantees equal rights for all Houstonians.