Supreme Court requires HERO ballot language change



The Texas Supreme Court has again overruled Mayor Annise Parker’s administration in connection with the legal fight over her signature nondiscrimination ordinance, ruling Wednesday that the mayor and City Council erred in choosing the language that will appear on the November ballot when the ordinance faces possible repeal.

The justices, writing in “yet another mandamus proceeding concerning the City of Houston’s equal rights ordinance,” said the city charter is clear in requiring that voters be asked to vote for or against the ordinance. Parker had instead argued it was proper to vote for or against repealing the measure, and the council approved language with that approach Aug. 5.

“Though the ordinance is controversial, the law governing the City Council’s duties is clear. 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,” the justices wrote. “The City Council must comply with its own laws regarding the handling of a referendum petition and any resulting election.”


The ruling rejected an argument from the ordinance’s foes that the ballot should not contain the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance,” which they said was politically charged.

Yeah, because nothing about this is politically charged. I don’t really get the fuss over this – voting to “keep” or “repeal” seems like two sides of the same coin to me, and if the petition is to repeal, then it’s logical that the vote should be to repeal – but if that’s the way it is then that’s the way it is. In the end, I doubt it makes that much difference, unless the number of easily confused people in this town is higher than I think it is.

By the way, on the matter of ballot language, I like the way the Press put it:

Frankly, we found Taylor’s language more confusing than the ballot wording, but the thing that really stuck out was Taylor’s other complaint — rejected by the court — that the language shouldn’t include the words “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.”

“It is simply a gratuitous, albeit intentional, insertion designed to give proponents an edge at the polls,” Taylor wrote, adding that the ordinance’s supporters wouldn’t want “Child Predator Protection Act” appearing on the ballot.

The difference, of course, is that only one of those is accurate nomenclature.

Indeed. Never forget how much lying the leaders of the repeal movement have done. Mayor Parker’s statement is here, and the Trib, PDiddie, and Texas Leftist have more.

On a related matter, there’s still the Dave Wilson Potty Package Check Petitions, which one court ruled needed to be counted; the city has appealed that ruling to the First Court of Appeals. That was still being litigated as of yesterday, and I happen to have a copy of the city’s response to Wilson’s motion to have their appeal dismissed. To sum it up, the city is arguing that Wilson has cited no authority for his dismissal argument, and the trial court erred by granting Wilson temporary emergency relief without requiring him to prove a right to that extraordinary relief. As it happens, later in the day yesterday the appeals court denied Wilson’s motion to dismiss the city’s appeal, and gave the city ten days to “file a written response to this notice, providing a detailed explanation, citing relevant portions of the record, statutes, rules, and case law to show that this Court has jurisdiction over the appeal”. So we’ll still be arguing this at the end of the month, and that’s going to make it a very close call as to whether Wilson’s issue could get on the ballot, if the petitions were certified in the first place. Stay tuned.

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7 Responses to Supreme Court requires HERO ballot language change

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I think the Ballot language change will be good for the Pro-Hero folks. The first thing on the ballot will be the Constitutional Amendments. We will all vote Yes on those. I think there are four or five of them. The next thing on the Ballot will be the the Hero Ordinance. If you Vote yes to the ordinance then it passes if you vote no it does not. Isn’t there a study somewhere that stands for the proposition that if you get a voter saying yes to the first five issues then the voter will more then likely vote yes on the last issue?

    If we kept the Mayor’s language then a yes vote would mean the ordinance didn’t pass or was repealed.

    If I (a traffic lawyer) would have been representing the Anit-Hero people I would have said leave the language as is. If the ordinance is not repealed then we can always take up the election as being illegal because it didn’t follow the Charter. The Anti-Hero people would get two bites at the apple.

    So you see if I am right then maybe, just maybe……


    was on the side of the Mayor all along.


    doesn’t lose much. I think the last time he lost was when my attorney


    kicked his and the City’s butts in the 5th circuit.

  2. voter_worker says:

    Since an election result can be challenged on the basis of ballot language, then we have been done a favor in this instance. With the original wording, whichever side lost would have had an opening for a challenge. As you say, Paul, that opening is now closed to both sides. Other opportunities for challenge may arise but we’ll have to wait to see about that. I have no doubt that if HERO is affirmed, its opponents will leave no stone unturned in their quest to repeal it.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    I agree with you voter. I personally have a great disdain for overturning elections. I didn’t like the Rain tax however I didn’t think it was confusing and should not have been overturned. A vote is a vote. I also thought the overturning of that election was bad public policy.

    However, who am I to say that the High Court is wrong about anything.

  4. j says:

    Regarding the “whatever” comment that leads off this post.

    I believe that if you don’t have principles that apply across all substantive issues, ones you are for and ones you are against, then you don’t have principles. You are the moral equivalent of the people who are derided as “haters”: Woodfills, Hotzes, …

    If the Mayor’s ballot wording had not been flipped, then there was a 100% chance that a victory by the HERO proponents would have been voided by any and all judges with even a scintilla of judicial temperament and ability to read a statute. That the Mayor is blind to that — see her lying press release — is hugely disappointing.

    I look forward to voting “for/yes” on HERO, and easily explaining that’s what you do to anyone who will listen to me.

  5. J, I’m not sure what principle you think I’m violating, but my “whatever” came from my belief that the Mayor and Council had discretion on the ballot language, which turned out to be wrong. It also comes from my belief that the “yes or no” question isn’t that big a deal, in that I seriously doubt the outcome will turn on who gets to vote Yes and who has to vote No.

    Given that the Supreme Court ruled on the writ of mandamus, which was filed last year well before we had a district court spend many, many hours determining that the petitions were full of forgery and error without taking that into account or even hearing from the city, is where the complaint about politics comes from. Maybe that’s misguided, and maybe it’s wrong on the law (the Supreme Court certainly thinks so), but I don’t think it’s dishonest.

  6. Julain Deleon says:

    It is interesting to me that Michael Kubosh would throw his colleagues under the buss by suggesting they would vote for an Ordinance, HERO, that is illegal (e.g., a man going into the women’s restroom). Many feel he did this for political gain and posturing because he has had many opportunities to set the record straight, but he prefers to speak at places of worship and further perpetuate his attack on African American, Latinos, Veterans, Disabled, LGBT community, etc.

    Michael Kubosh works at City Hall, so the excuse he was not included will not work. He has no problem asking for a vote, so he should have no problem seeking to understand.

  7. Pingback: HERO ballot language set – Off the Kuff

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