Thursday, August 07, 2014

Opponents of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance Sue After Referendum Petitions Rejected

In May, Houston, Texas City Council passed an Equal Rights Ordinance that attracted significant opposition because of its ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. (See prior posting.) Opponents have been circulating petitions to get a repeal referendum on the ballot. On Monday, the city ruled that there were insufficient valid signatures on the petitions.  As reported by the Houston Chronicle, strict city rules disqualify entire pages of signatures when those collecting them are not registered voters or did not themselves sign the petition.  On Tuesday, opponents of the ordinance filed suit in state court challenging the procedure used to disqualify signatures-- city attorneys eliminated numerous names after the City Secretary had initially determined that there were sufficient signatures. The lawsuit sought an immediate injunction against enforcement of the Equal Rights Ordinance. In response, the city has removed the lawsuit to federal court on the ground that one paragraph of the complaint raises a federal claim of interference with the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Houston Chronicle says that opponents of the Ordinance see this as a delaying tactic to prevent a state court injunction from being issued.