City officials say a petition to repeal Houston’s new Equal Rights Ordinance doesn’t have enough valid signatures to put the issue on the ballot. But people opposed to the ordinance say they’re not giving up the fight.
Opponents take issue with protections extended to gay and transgendered people, and they circulated a recall petition to try to get the issue before voters this November.
The city spent several weeks going over thousands of signatures.
City Attorney David Feldman says the petition needed at least 17,269 valid signatures from Houston residents but they fell about 2,000 short.
“There are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid.”
City Council approved the ordinance in May by an 11-6 vote.
The measure bans discrimination based on race, age, and gender, as well as sexual orientation.
Groups against the ordinance then launched a petition drive.
They said one of the things they were worried about was that men who identify as female would be able to use women’s restrooms.
Dave Welch with the Houston Area Pastor Council claims over 31,000 of the signatures were valid, and despite the city attorney’s ruling they remain committed to putting the issue on the ballot.
“We’re just asking the administration, what are you afraid of? If the mayor is so confident of her position on this vote, then just frankly give the benefit to the voters and let us have a voice.”
Mayor Annise Parker says she’s fully expecting a lawsuit, so she’s delaying implementation of the ordinance. But she says that delay isn’t indefinite, and she believes the ordinance will stay on the books.
“Clearly the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process, and I believe that the majority of Houstonians, had this made it to the ballot, would have upheld our decision.”
The Houston City Charter states that a valid petition has to have enough signatures of registered voters to equal ten percent or more of the total votes cast in the last mayor’s race.
People signing the petition have to give their address, their voter registration number and their date of birth.
City Attorney Feldman says hundreds of signatures failed to meet one or more of the requirements. He says of the 5,000 pages submitted, less than half qualified for consideration.