Court throws out ballot language for HERO vote

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Don't tell Mayor Annise Parker this. But Andy Taylor – the anti-gay attorney for HERO opponents – told her so. And the Texas Supreme Court agrees. Again. 

The court on Wednesday sided with Taylor – and against Parker and the City Council – by rejecting the ballot language the council approved on Aug. 5 for the public vote this fall on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. The court ruled that the city must reword the language so the vote is whether to affirm the expansive non-discrimination ordinance and not repeal it.

The court made it crystal clear, according to the Texas Tribune.

That means the ordinance will not take effect unless voters say so.

“Though the ordinance is controversial, the law governing the City Council’s duties is clear,” the justices wrote. “Our decision rests not on our views on the ordinance — a political issue the citizens of Houston must decide — but on the clear dictates of the City Charter.”

It's the second time the state Supreme Court has slapped the hands of the city over HERO. On July 24, the court ordered the council to repeal the ordinance or put it before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot. That led to an outpouring of support for the ordinance during two recent council meetings, a council vote to affirm the ordinance and the ballot language asking voters to repeal the ordinance. That wording would have left HERO intact if voters didn't strike it down – wording that provoked heater arguments among some council members before they voted 13-4 on the ballot language the court later threw out. 

Taylor (photo), who has personally attacked Parker during his rants against HERO and LGBT people, warned the mayor and council during an Aug. 4 meeting that their proposed ballot language would land the ordinance in court – again. So Taylor and other HERO opponents, including Jared Woodfill, sued after the ballot language was approved, a move that resulted in Wednesday's ruling.

“You've got to write it so that if you're in favor of the ordinance, you vote yes. If you are opposed to the ordinance, you vote no,” Taylor said Aug. 4. “There is confusion. People are thinking this is a repeal vote. It's not.”

On Wednesday, Parker blasted the court decision but expressed confidence that voters will approve HERO in November.

Despite the continued backdoor legal maneuvers and manipulation by a small group that is out of touch, I am confident that Houstonians will vote to keep the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in November.  We are a city that believes everyone deserves to be treated equally no matter his or her race, age, gender, physical limitations, sexual orientation or gender identity.  Discrimination simply isn’t a Houston value.

With all due respect to the Texas Supreme Court, it is clear that politics is driving the law in this case.  We will rewrite the ballot language, but I strongly disagree with the decision and find it to be contrary to the court’s established law regarding previous ballot initiatives.  

Prior to the court decision, Parker continued her full court press to save HERO.

 

HERO opponents scheduled a Wednesday morning press conference to gloat, no doubt.

UPDATE | This post was updated to include reaction from Mayor Annise Parker.

[h/t Lone Star Q]

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