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Opponents Of Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Sue City

They say city should have accepted more of the signatures.

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Jared Woodfill is an attorney and former chairman of the Harris County Republican Party. He is also part of a coalition to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO for short, and a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city.

“So at this point in time, the next step is to take this case to a court and let a judge or ultimately a jury decide whether or not the city acted in a lawful manner,” he said. “We don’t think they did.”

He said the coalition turned in more than 31,000 signatures that they validated themselves to make sure they will be counted.

But City Attorney David Feldman announced the city will only accept 15,249 of them. That leaves the petition 2,220 signatures short of the number needed to put a referendum on the November ballot.

The city did not make anyone available for an interview. In a statement, Mayor Annise Parker said she expected the decision to be challenged and that a court will find that the process has been fair.

Woodfill said the validation should have been left to the city secretary and not the city attorney. He is confident that the referendum will still be part of the November ballot.

But if that fails, “We won’t give up, we’re not going to quit and we’re not going to surrender,” Woodfill said. “We’re going to make sure that this gets in front of the voters and that their voices are heard.”

City Council passed the Equal Rights Ordinance in May. The focus has now shifted from what the ordinance says to whether or not voters should have a say in it, said Bob Stein, a political scientist at Rice University.

“I think the opponents of the ordinance could make a case and will try to rally their supporters not just around the ordinance and the merits or weaknesses of the ordinance,” Stein said, “but simply saying, the voters should have a right to be heard on this issue.”

Stein thinks that strategy is working.

“I suspect the decision to be very hard and critical and vigilant about the petitions arose because supporters of the ordinance, including the mayor, thought they would not succeed in November of 2014 if this was put to a public vote.”

Stein also said should the referendum be put on the ballot for November 2015, supporters of the ordinance will have more time to rally their base and catch up with the more organized opposition.

 

The lawsuit

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Florian Martin

Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is the News 88.7 business reporter and also covers criminal justice, guns and shootings.Florian's stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of...

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