Pastors file a lawsuit over HERO

I have three things to say about this.


Organizers of the anti-Houston Equal Rights Ordinance petition have filed suit against Mayor Annise Parker, saying she and unnamed “conspirators” unconstitutionally rejected valid petition signatures and “smothered the Citizen Referendum Petition in the crib.” (Gotta love a lawsuit whose opening salvo includes infanticide imagery!).

Filed by four pastors, the suit comes on the heels of a Texas Supreme Court finding that Houston City Council should have put the HERO ordinance to referendum. The court suspended the ordinance and ordered Council to either repeal it or put it on the November ballot.

The pastors were against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance because, as their attorney Andy Taylor explains in a weird footnote, “that label is deceptive and false. Far from creating equality, ‘HERO’ creates special rights, not equal rights, for biological males to enter the public restrooms reserved for adult women, adolescent girls, and infants.”

The pastors are seeking compensation for civil rights violations, as well as court costs.

The suit alleges that “as a result of the hard work of all concerned, a successful referendum petition drive produced over 54,000 signatures on the Citizen Referendum Petition,” but that Parker and then-City Attorney David Feldman “wrongfully inserted themselves into the process…dared the public to challenge their decision in court if they did not agree with their rejection of the [petition], and arrogantly and illegally refused to obey their mandatory duties under the Houston City Charter.”

Moreover, the pastors say that Parker “[ran] roughshod over her veteran colleague City Secretary Anna Russell” and “trampled the voting rights of over a million voters in the fourth largest city in the United States of America in an unprecedented and colossal violation of every Houstonian’s civil rights.”

Here’s the Chron story on this, and here’s what I have to say:

1. These pastors are suing for court costs incurred in the lawsuit that they filed and lost to get the repeal referendum on the ballot. Usually, the losing side in a lawsuit bears the burden of court costs, including for the winning side. That Supreme Court ruling that will force HERO onto the ballot this fall was not a reversal of the district court ruling that declared the petition effort had fallen short, it was a ruling on a writ of mandamus that sought to bypass the district court entirely. I’m honestly not sure what the status of that case is now – there is an ongoing appeal as of last report – and I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see why the losers in that lawsuit deserve any compensation for it.

2. That claim of 54,000 petition signatures is laughably inaccurate. They did claim to have “collected” that many petitions at the time, but after doing their own “verification” process, that number had dropped to 31,000. That was the total that was the starting point for all subsequent disputes. For them to make that “54,000 signatures” claim when they themselves threw out 23,000 of them before they even signed over their boxes should give you some idea of how ridiculous they are.

3. Or to put it another way, they continue to lie like cheap rugs about the whole thing, not just about their signature total but about what the law is and who we should be afraid of. They have lied, continuously and shamelessly, throughout this process – and largely gotten away with it in the reporting, too – to the point where one ought to be wondering “Isn’t lying, like, a sin?” The amount of lying, by professional religious people and those who abet them, remains the most amazing thing about this to me. It’s no wonder to me that the petitions that they did turn in were found to be so riddled with forgeries and other failures to comply with the law.

One would think based on all that that this latest effort would get laughed out of court, but at this point my faith is a little strained. Here’s Mayor Parker’s statement about this lawsuit. Council is set to have a vote affirming HERO today, which will put it on the ballot as expected. I’ll have more on that tomorrow.

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