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Jurors Hear Opening Statements, First Witness In Houston Equal Rights Ordinance Trial

The jury will determine whether the city should have accepted a petition demanding a repeal of the controversial law.



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Dave Welch on the stand
Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, takes the witness stand on the first day of testimony.

In their opening statements, the lawyers laid out the case that the jury will be asked to decide over the next few weeks.

Andy Taylor represents the plaintiffs. He spoke to reporters during a break.

“On our side of the case, we’re talking about the right to vote,” he said. “On their side of the case, they’re talking about ticky-tacky deficiencies like we’re missing a comma or our signature is hard to read. I mean, give me a break.”

Geoffrey Harrison, lawyer for the city, has a different view.

“What you now have is a small group of coalition members who based on their own religious belief, which they’re allowed to have, are trying to overturn the law of the duly elected city officials,” Harrison said.

The first witness to testify in the trial was Dave Welch of the Houston Area Pastor Council, the group that organized the petition drive after the City Council approved the ordinance.

In a glimpse of how passionate the different sides are about the issue, Welch at one point started to get combative with Harrison. The judge later admonished him to be more responsive to the attorney’s questions.

More witnesses for the plaintiffs will be called Wednesday and Thursday before the court adjourns for the week.

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