And now we have a lawsuit over HERO repeal ballot language

Oh, for crying out loud.


Last month the Texas Supreme Court suspended the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, more commonly known as HERO, and ordered City Council to either repeal the non-discrimination measure or put it up for a public vote.

On Wednesday council voted 12-5 for the latter, and in November Houston voters will be asked this question at the polls:

“Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530 which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information gender identity or pregnancy?”

That question, according to the coalition of pastors and conservative activists that have been fighting HERO tooth-and-nail since it went before council last spring (even though religious groups are exempt from having to follow the law), is deliberately confusing and not the same as a public vote on HERO. On Friday, Andy Taylor, one of the attorneys who first sued the city over HERO alongside Steve “Men Who Lose Their Testicles Can’t Read Maps” Hotze (who later dropped out of the suit), filed yet another legal challenge against the city in hopes of changing the wording of the ballot measure.

In a motion filed with the state supreme court Friday, Taylor points to the city charter language related to ballot referendums: “…such ordinance or resolution shall not take effect unless a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon at such election shall vote in favor thereof.”

That’s the legal basis for Taylor’s petition to change the ballot language – that voters should vote “yes” or “no” on HERO, not “yes” or “no” on whether to keep it.


Ultimately, it appears the anti-HERO coalition fears the ballot language could harm their chances of success at the polls. “This is a legal recipe for an electoral disaster,” Taylor writes. “Voters will be confused, because someone who is against the proposition cannot vote against, and vice-versa.”

It’s unclear why Taylor and his coalition still feel they haven’t won the HERO-ballot battle and keep heading to the courts. The public now has the opportunity to cast a vote on other people’s rights, which is what Taylor and other opponents have wanted all along. Is the current ballot language (do you or do you not think HERO should stand?) really so confusing as to spoil the anti-LGBT contingent’s chances at the polls?

Mayor Parker’s statement is here. I’m convinced that the only language that would be acceptable to Taylor and his band of idiots is “Do you or do you not want to protect your children from a bunch of filthy perverts?” But hey, maybe they’ll get the Supreme Court to save their sorry asses again.

In the meantime, while we wait for that foolishness to be adjudicated, there’s this:

Boosters of big sporting events in Houston are nervous about the fight over the equal rights ordinance.

Opponents of the ordinance have succeeded in putting the issue on the November ballot. Now, some HERO supporters are calling upon the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl out of Houston if the ordinance is repealed. The online petition was launched by a blogger and it has dozens of signatures.

“Well, I think if Houston is ever perceived as an intolerant, bigoted place, it will greatly diminish our opportunities to bring sporting events to town,” admitted Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman.

Houston’s Super Bowl Committee had no comment.

The NFL reportedly considered moving a Super Bowl out of Arizona over legislation that would’ve offered legal protections to businesses that discriminated against gays. That never happened, because the governor vetoed the bill.

HERO opponents say it’ll never happen here either.

“That’s simply a red herring. That’s simply what they tried to do in Indiana and Arkansas and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” said ordinance opponent Jared Woodfill. “It basically shows that they are going to do anything and everything they can to skew the issue.”

“I think it’s a real threat,” said KHOU 11 Political Analyst Bob Stein. “Now, how it plays with the voters is very interesting. It could conceivably become one in which voters have a backlash against it, see it as a — how can I say this? — a threat.”

Via PDiddie, the blogger in question. The petition is here, and it surely can’t hurt to sign it. How likely it is that the NFL might actually move a Super Bowl that would be 14 months out at the time of the vote if it goes badly I couldn’t say, but it would certainly make it a lot harder, if not downright impossible, for Houston to win bids on other big events, and I would predict with absolute certainty that some events that are currently on the calendar would be canceled, just as they were in Indiana after they passed that ill-advised “religious freedom” law. There’s a good reason why the Greater Houston Partnership supports HERO – this is the norm in the business world, and it’s a base condition for companies that want to recruit top talent. Anyone who thinks repealing HERO would not have negative repercussions is not living in the real world. You can like HERO or not, you can like the way Mayor Parker got it passed or not, and you can be like Dave Wilson and obsess all you want about the genitalia of every person who enters a women’s bathroom if you want, but the prevailing reaction to the loss of HERO will not be good for Houston. Texas Leftist has more.

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19 Responses to And now we have a lawsuit over HERO repeal ballot language

  1. Manuel Barrera says:

    I don’t know about all that, but the bottom line is usually money, Qatar is famous for tolerance?

    Wonder why all the liberal blogs were not discussing boycotting Arizona, or their teams when they were passing all those horrendous laws, the one about brown people?

    There was a boycott Arizona going on at the time because,

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Maybe events get cancelled and maybe they don’t. Maybe people on both sides think that if they can’t have their way then the hell with everyone else just burn the City to the Ground. If the pro/con people don’t care then I don’t either. All of this makes me sick. The Mayor’s pride keeps her from reading the Charter. Maybe the Supreme Court will side with


    maybe they want. However, I have learned the hard way that


    is smarter (on election law) than the Mayor and anyone on her legal team.

    As to the Greater Houston “puppet” partnership and the Sports Authority Chairman J. Kent Friedman….if you look real closely at their testimony you can see Mayor Parker’s hand up the back of their shirts moving their mouths as they speak.

    Puppets each and everyone of them. Remember the head of the NAACP? “I havn’t read it (hero ordinance) but I support it whatever it says.” (paraphrase). First person from City Government to contact him about the hero ordinance? Michael Kubosh. Pathetic all just pathetic.

    Greater Houston Partnership now sends out a paper we have a debt problem. However, when the Mayor wanted her 2012 bond issue they were all for that! Remember? Take a look at this to refresh your memory….

    This commercial was cut and run to fight against that bond election. While he was a private Citizen.

  3. Manuel Barrera says:

    I maintain that the City itself may lose money on the venture or barely break even. Companies make money, hotels are not locally owned, the major chains, so that money does not stay here.

    Last super bowl Houston made about 5 million in sales tax. How much extra did they have to spend, police, traffic, clean up? Without that information can’t figure out if the City made money. Uber will make money, the cab companies will make money.

    Do Cities make money,

    People who live here do get inconvenience.

  4. voter_worker says:

    Maybe we should all chide Mayor Parker for not having invited Mr. Taylor to draft the ballot language himself and then get Mssrs. Woodfill and Hotze and all the Pastors to sign off on it before submitting it to Council. What an obvious oversight! I hope they get the exact wording they desire, lose the election, and find themselves unable to use ballot language as a means to challenge the result. As for the Super Bowl, the outcome is already out of the hands of local players. The corporations that anticipate spending megabucks on advertising will pressure the NFL with the best leverage money can buy to move the event if the ordinance is repealed. The NFL is totally in “do the right thing” mode and I suspect they will see the need to find a new venue. You can bet they’re already looking at this.

  5. Wil Williams says:

    Article VII-b, section 5 lays it out really clearly:
    “The ballots used when voting upon such proposed and referred ordinances, resolutions or measures shall set forth their nature sufficiently to identify them, and shall also set forth upon separate lines the words “For the Ordinance” and “Against the Ordinance”, or “For the Resolution” or “Against the Resolution.” (Added by amendment October 15, 1913; amended November 6, 2012)”

    The issue or ordinance to be voted on needs to be sufficiently identified, not a high hurdle, just use the city’s wording without “shall the City of Houston repeal” part. Then, the key part, mandated by the charter, is that the selection voters make will not be between “yes” and “no” but “For the Ordinance” and “Against the Ordinance”. The charter specifies these as the mandatory selections for voters. Anything else is in violation. Not sure why we’re stuck on the yes/no option for voters when that is not permitted by the charter.

  6. Paul kubosh says:

    Williams wrong provision. I have told you guys time and time again just follow


    testimony and you will see.his.point. maybe the supreme court clears it.up/maybe they don’t who knows what they will do.

    As far as the superbowl I sure wish we had a take a bet on that.

  7. Wil Williams says:

    Paul, wrong provision. Section 5 is titled “Form of Ballot” and directly addresses how the ballot is to be worded. Both Taylor and the city attorney apparently stopped reading at section 3 and didn’t bother to keep going to the section which gives instructions on how the ballot is to be worded. Read it for yourself, it’s plain as day.

  8. Paul Kubosh says:

    Well we will agree to disagree. The Supreme Court will decide what is and is not. Although I will give you this. If the Supreme Court says the moon is made of cheese then who am I to argue. I guess the moon is made of cheese. 🙂

  9. Steven Houston says:

    Paul, I doubt the NFL would pull out unless they did so because they got a better offer and needed a pretext reason. Like Manuel, I question how much really goes into the local economy, the NFL refusing to open up their methodology for academic scrutiny alone which tells you it is embellished. The city went to 12 hour shifts for police and refused to let any off, it demanded other employees work extra hours the weeks leading up to the event and during clean up, spent a great deal of money advertising and redirected existing resources to appease the league in ways most never hear about. The indirect money made by cabs, car rentals, and such benefited some but remember, the reason we have a giant Astrodome wasting away is thanks to the no compete clause demanded by the league when we had to spend hundreds of millions building them a new stadium.

    As far as those bonds, and all other bonds for that matter, people want “goodies” and they want them right now, not when we can afford them. In some instances, fixing up a facility now makes fiscal sense because you face escalating damage when putting repairs off; such as a busted water pipe in your house. Most city facilities need repairs but nothing right away, that embellishment comes in because people in charge of specific buildings have learned to “sell” the worst case scenario or they know they will be at the back of the line. To hear some, that municipal court you spend much of your time in is a ticking time bomb and on its last legs but clearly it is no such thing, yet to get all new facilities requires a sense of urgency and immediacy. The GHP will always support large scale bonds that dump huge monies in members coffers, much like the TIRZs do for construction firms with members on their boards. Bonds make up the huge majority of city liabilities yet some prefer to focus on the largely projected paper liabilities of pensions, the city plan to chip away at those over time slowly not gaining much ground lately.

    Given your dislike of bonds I take it you would never support a mayoral candidate running on a platform where he planned to issue gobs of bonds to fix streets and “convert” pensions?

  10. Paul kubosh says:

    Are you talking about bill king?

  11. Paul kubosh says:

    Steven, all in all nice post. I couldn’t agree more.

  12. voter_worker says:

    Steven Houston, of course at this stage there’s plenty of room for doubt regarding the NFL pulling the Super Bowl. We’ll still be discussing this in October and will have more to go on then. In the meantime, a certain uneasiness will be gnawing at the innards of those who have a lot riding on the game staying in Houston. The discussion here about little if any real economic benefit to locals may be accurate, but in the world of chest-thumping regional economic promoters the Super Bowl seems to be considered significant, or so I infer. It will be a double-whammy for Houston to be seen as the city that voted for discrimination and then had a trophy event yanked as a result. A lot of players are going to be working very hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  13. Paul kubosh says:

    It would be just like the mayr to have appointments who would do what they can to kill the superbowl to pro e their point. Thats what I call a legacy.

  14. Steven Houston says:

    PK: “Are you talking about bill king?”

    Yes. He brags about wanting to fix the streets on a massive scale, further claiming it would “save money” versus a pay as you go system or some sensible hybrid as we deploy now. He has also proposed issuing bonds to pay off existing pension liabilities and then forcing employees into a 401k program for the future.

    He might not like the characterization of being the local Chicken Little but given the manner in which he and those he so often quotes have claimed the city would be bankrupt by _____ (fill in the given year), after the first couple of bad guesses, he started coming across as one of those doomsday prophets from the 70’s. There are reasons why specific budgets increased as they did in the past but suggesting they will continue to increase at the same rate is not true, blaming pensions as the actual cause of possible deficits a case of mistaking cause and effect. Don’t get me wrong, the city has a spending problem that needs to be corrected, and that problem has existed since at least Lanier’s reign, he just had the benefit of a prolonged expanding economy and infusion of an extra $50 million to help mask it.

  15. Steven Houston says:

    Voter_Worker, I’m in favor of an ordinance against discriminating against others, extending protections many others have come to rely on since 1964(?) to those on the margin in other groups. One would think the invisible hand of capitalism would cover most issues in the private sector and that city policies would cover the rest but in reality, it just doesn’t work out that way.

    That said, Houston is a lucrative market for the NFL to make a great deal of money. The city and county have given tremendous sums of taxpayer money on top of that to sweeten the deals that this area makes with the organization. As an average guy, I don’t stand to make a penny if the superbowl plays here or not like some fat cats in the GHP, I do get the many inconveniences Mr. Barrera mentioned earlier and as city finances impact everyone in the area, it seems reasonable to point out that the city probably loses money in the process.

    As far as regional promoters and bad press are concerned, I really don’t care. There are gay bashers in the most liberal cities of the country yet they seem to fare just fine when it comes to the NFL or other organizations so if a majority of people that care enough to vote turn the ordinance down, it isn’t going to be open season on discrimination all of a sudden. I’ve been personally acquainted with openly gay, lesbian, transgender, and probably bisexual people in both private sector and that were employed by the city long before Parker took office, most of them will still be so employed long after she is gone. If the ordinance helps protect a few more folks, that’s great, but if the NFL is so interested, they can loan pro-Hero groups the use of JJ Watt and others for public service announcements as Kuff suggested.

  16. Paul Kubosh says:

    Steven, I just want to clarify (now that I am on a computer as opposed to a cell phone) I am not opposed to debt. I am opposed to the mismanagement of debt. As far as the Superbowl is concerned you are dead on right.

  17. Steven Houston says:

    Thanks PK. As I have said many times, we are often on the same page or at least in the ballpark on many issues. As a finance guy, there are plenty of times to encourage bonded debt and plenty of times when pay as you go makes more sense; King’s “back to basics” campaign devoid of any meaningful discussion showing he knows which is which. Bonds are a form of mortgage lasting a long time and the city has a great deal of them but he tries to convince folks that the city is in too much debt now on one hand while suggesting he’d like to issues a great deal more on the other hand; mutually exclusive ideas. 😉

  18. Jules says:

    And what do y’all think about “Section 8 Inconsistent Ordinances” if both HERO and Wilson’s ordinance pass?

  19. Paul kubosh says:

    Thats easy…charter amendment will trump hero ordinance provisions that conflict.

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