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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 8 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 32
Houston anti-Gay referendum 'invalid' - Anti-Gay leader will sue
Section One
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Houston anti-Gay referendum 'invalid' - Anti-Gay leader will sue

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Anti-Gay forces in Houston failed to qualify a referendum to repeal the city's new HERO legislation (Houston Equal Rights Ordinance). Sponsored by Houston's openly Lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, HERO bans discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of housing, employment, and services provided by private businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

Other prohibited reasons for discrimination include sex, race, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military states, religion, disability, genetic information, or pregnancy.

HERO was passed by the Houston City Council on May 28, by a convincing 11-6 vote.

Parker and Houston City Attorney David Feldman announced on August 4 that the referendum challenging the new law had failed to qualify for the November ballot.

'With respect to the referendum petition filed to repeal the 'HERO' ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook,' Feldman said. 'The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion.'

'Passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is important to the city of Houston,' Parker said. 'Clearly the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process.'

Opponents of the ordinance claimed they submitted more than 50,000 signatures to the city on July 3, but only 15,249 proved to be valid, city officials found.

According to Feldman, less than half of the more than 5,000 pages of signatures that opponents submitted were valid.

Feldman said some of the petition gatherers did not meet the legal requirements set out for such petitions in the city charter. For example, signature gatherers must be registered Houston voters and must sign the petition themselves. If such requirements were not met, he said, all the signatures the individual gathered are invalid.

'We would like to commend Mayor Annise Parker and the people of Houston for their leadership in successfully resisting this effort to roll back equality for LGBTQ people,' NGLTF Executive Director Rea Carey said in a statement.

'Houston has a reputation as a place that welcomes everyone, as we discovered earlier this year when it played host to our Creating Change conference. It is clearly a place where people can be themselves and bring their whole selves to work, to school, to work and to life. Yesterday's announcement shows that this reputation is well deserved.'

Meanwhile, Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council, one of the leaders of the repeal effort, pledged to file a lawsuit challenging Houston's signature verification process.

Parker said she is confident a court will agree with the city's procedure, but she suspended implementation of HERO 'not indefinitely, but to allow for these issues to work their way out.'

Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio have already passed similar nondiscrimination ordinances.

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