As follow up to a promise made earlier in the week, the City of Houston has revised its subpoenas in the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) repeal petition case. The disputed request has been narrowed to focus solely on communications related to HERO and the petition gathering process. There is no mention whatsoever of pastors sermons.
“The original subpoenas for sermons that were filed by pro bono attorneys helping the city prepare for the January trial in this case were far too broad,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “I support the right of the clergy to say whatever they want to say, even if I disagree with them. This is not about what they may be preaching from the pulpit. It is about proving that the petition gathering process organized by these pastors did not meet the requirements of the City Charter. This information is critical to proving the city’s contention that the petition was ineligible for placement on the ballot and that the organizers knew this.”
The city is seeking information from just five pastors who were at the forefront of organizing the petition drive: Pastor Hernan Castano, Ms. Magda Hermida, Pastor Khan Huynh, Pastor Steve Riggle and Pastor David Welch. The revised subpoenas now call for all speeches or presentations related to HERO or the petition prepared by, delivered by, revised by or approved by them or in their possession.
According to the City Charter, a valid petition must contain enough signatures of registered voters to at least equal 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last mayoral election. Each signature must be accompanied by the printed name, address, voter registration number or date of birth and the date signed. Anyone who collected signatures must also have personally signed the petition and have appeared before a notary to acknowledge under oath that the signatures were made in their presence. Thousands of the signatures submitted with the HERO petition failed to meet one or more of these requirements and had to be disregarded. As a result, the petition could not be placed before voters. HERO opponents have filed suit against the city in an effort to reverse this decision and force the issue onto the ballot. The case is set for trial in January.