The City of Plano has determined that a recently circulated Equal Rights petition is invalid and will not move forward. Plano’s City Secretary was unable to certify the petition because it failed to meet State and local requirements for validation.
On Dec. 8, 2014, the Plano City Council approved an Equal Rights Ordinance, expanding the city’s policy to prohibit discrimination against the following classes: U.S. military/veteran status, genetic information, sexual orientation and gender identity. The petition called for the city to either repeal that ordinance or submit it to the citizens for a vote.
The petition contained false information regarding the Equal Rights Ordinance, claiming it regulates bathrooms. The ordinance does not regulate bathrooms. By making this false representation, the Equal Rights petition asked signees to repeal an ordinance that does not exist.
Texas Election Code requires petitions submitted in cities located in two counties to include a column for the signee’s county of voter registration. Since Plano is in two counties, that column was mandatory. However, none of the petition pages included it.
The Plano City Charter requires petitions to include a copy of the legislation sought to be repealed or changed. The Equal Rights petition did not include an attachment of the ordinance.
On Dec. 30, three weeks prior to the deadline for the Equal Rights petition to be turned in, the city of Plano sent an email to the groups organizing the petition drive, including Texas Values, the U.S. Pastor Council and Plano Citizens United, to clarify information. It outlined problematic issues with the petition, including those aforementioned. The email read, ‘The city is providing information in an attempt to facilitate accuracy in referendum petitions to avoid any potential disputes regarding validity of signatures.’ Links were provided to the city of Plano Charter, Texas Election Code and petition information on the Secretary of State website. The city made a good faith attempt to avoid dispute and facilitate accuracy.
Nonetheless, not a single page of submitted petitions was valid.
Like I said, wow. I have a mighty low opinion of the characters involved in this effort, but even I wouldn’t have expect this. The DMN fills in some details.
If the petitions had been validated, the Plano City Council was scheduled to decide Monday on whether to repeal the ordinance or put it on the May 9 ballot.
Instead, said [Plano City Manager Bruce] Glasscock, the ordinance stands and the council will be briefed on the reasons why the petitions were found to be invalid.
“There are no other options for them,” Glasscock said, referring to organizers of the petition drive.
A referendum petition must be presented within 30 days after an ordinance is approved, according to the Plano City Charter. The Equal Rights Ordinance was approved Dec. 8. The deadline to submit petitions expired Jan. 20.
However, opponents of Houston’s LGBT rights ordinance sued the city after officials said that a petition drive failed to garner enough valid signatures.
Plano officials express confidence in their ability to fight any legal challenge.
“Over half of the petitions had false statements on them,” said Glasscock, referring to what he called an “egregious” misrepresentation of how the ordinance would affect public restrooms.
The petitions stated: “Also under this policy, biological males who declare their ‘gender identity’ as female MAY BE ALLOWED to enter women’s restrooms!”
The ordinance specifically excludes public restrooms, showers, locker rooms and dressing rooms. It states that it is not illegal to “deny the opposite sex access to facilities inside a public accommodation segregated on the basis of sex for privacy.”
By making this false representation, the petition asked residents to repeal an ordinance that didn’t exist, city officials said.
See here, here, here, and here for the background. The bathroom exemption was the reason why groups like the Trans Pride Initiative did not support the ordinance. As the Dallas Voice observed, this was the same gang that did such a stellar job with the Houston repeal petitions, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. I am sure that litigation will follow, but for now, let’s celebrate. KERA, the Scoop Blog, and Unfair Park have more.