With local pastors standing with her, Mayor Annise Parker has told the City Legal Department to withdraw the subpoenas filed against five local pastors who have identified themselves as the leaders of the petition drive to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
“This is an issue that has weighed heavily on my mind for the last two weeks,” said Mayor Parker. “Protecting the HERO from being repealed is important to Houston, but I also understand the concerns of the religious community regarding the subpoenas. After two meetings yesterday, I decided that withdrawing the subpoenas is the right thing to do. It addresses the concerns of ministers across the country who viewed the move as overreaching. It is also the right move for our city.
In a breakfast meeting yesterday, Mayor Parker met with local Pastors Rudy Rasmus, Jim Herrington and Chris Seay. She had a second meeting later in the day with National Clergy Council President Rob Schenck, Reverend Pat Mahoney of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Pastor Myle Crowder from Utah, Pastor David Anderson from Florida, Pastor Sean Sloan from Arkansas and two others.
“These pastors came to me for civil discussions about the issues,” said Parker. They came without political agendas, without hate in their hearts and without any desire to debate the merits of the HERO. They simply wanted to express their passionate and very sincere concerns about the subpoenas. The second meeting group wasn’t from Houston, but they took the Houston approach of civil discourse in presenting their case. We gained an understanding of each other’s positions.”
Thousands of the signatures submitted with the HERO petition failed to meet one or more of the requirements mandated by the City Charter and had to be disregarded. As a result, the petition was not placed on the ballot for voter consideration. HERO opponents have filed suit against the city in an effort to reverse this decision and force the issue to a vote.
Mayor Parker reiterated that this has always been about proving that the petition process used by the five pastors who identified themselves as the organizers of the effort did not meet the requirements of the City Charter. “That got lost in the national debate over the subpoenas,” said Parker. “Today’s move refocuses the discussion and allows us to move forward.”
The lawsuit is scheduled for trial in January.