Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues
Houston-Treading lightly and low key, Houston Mayor Annise Parker did not gloat in victory as the announcement came down that there would be no November referendum on the Equal Right Ordinance.
“I fully expect … petitioners will to head to the courthouse. I’m confident that the courts will agree with the strict interpretation of the rules set out in the charter for the requirements and that the courts will protect the integrity of our petition process,” Parker said. “Since I do have expectation that there will be some legal action, I’m going to delay implementation of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, not indefinitely but certainly to allow these issues to work their way out.”
Pastors did not make an immediate statement and were unavailable for comment after the announcement.
A total of 17,269 valid signatures were required to place the referendum on the November ballot, but official tallied on 15,247 – short of the requirement. But there were also other problems that stopped the move to overturn the ordinance, according to Houston City Attorney Dave Feldman.
“The charter requirements are in place to ensure a fair and credible process absent of fraud,” Feldman said. “In this instance … this petition filed to repeal the HERO ordinance, there are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid, there is no other conclusion.”
Feldman also noted that a successful petition must contain at least 10 percent of the total number of votes cast during the last mayoral election.
Under city law, it is illegal for anyone to knowingly and intentionally enter any public restroom designated for the exclusive use of the sex opposite to such person’s sex with the permission of the owner or another supervisor for the calculated purpose of causing a disturbance.
HERO prohibits discrimination in employment, public accommodation and housing on the basis of sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy.
More than 80 current and former elected officials, community organizations and nonprofit groups have endorsed HERO. It had the backing of the Greater Houston Partnership, the NAACP, Rice University and the Houston Association of Realtors.
Since City Council approval of the ordinance in May, HERO supporters claimed opponents of the ordinance have been spreading a lot of misinformation.
Bathrooms have been the subject of the most heated discussion. Mayor Parker stressed that there is no mention of the use of bathrooms in the ordinance. “Let’s be clear, this in no way grants men the unfettered right to access women’s bathrooms or locker rooms,” said Parker. “It is simply not true and I know Houstonians are wise enough to see through the misrepresentations and exaggerations.”