By Mike Craig, Chair Emeritus – Out & Equal Houston
Last month, in Houston Sees Red and Passes Equal Rights Ordinance, I wrote about the passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance – #HERO – and the coalition that was prepared to fight the repeal petition effort.
On July 3rd, the petition organizers claimed (initially) to have turned in over 50,000 signatures. Never ones to be completely forthright, they also claimed to have already pre-verified more than 31,000 signatures prior to turning in the seven (7!) boxes to the City Secretary.
For the record, they turned in 5,199 petition pages – all of which would have fit in a single box.
During the past three weeks, over 100 community volunteers – gay, straight, trans, allies – from all walks of life, came together to independently review what had been turned in. Our goal was simple: keep the #HERO opposition honest.
It was a painstaking process – but one that could only be done with today’s social media, crowd-sourcing technology and our volunteers’ tenacity. I’d like to thank everyone involved in the independent petition review – organizers Kris Banks, Kristen Capps, Dane Cook, Noel Freeman, Brad Pritchett, Mike Pomeroy – and to Januari Leo and Mark Eggleston for helping to secure space (with WIFI) for volunteers to work at Legacy Community Health and Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church. To our volunteers who poured hundreds of long hours into this effort – I can’t say thank you enough.
Last Wednesday, based on the results of the independent reviews, Noel Freeman (Houston GLBT Caucus) and I testified before City Council and turned in our preliminary analyses showing that there were serious – potentially fatal – flaws with the petitions. A final report was turned in to the City Secretary, City Attorney and Mayor on Friday.
Our hope was that the City would – as part of their normal review process – find what we had found: that the petitioners had failed to qualify enough signatures to meet the 17,269 threshold.
From Friday evening to Monday afternoon, we held our collective breath.
Then at 5:00 PM on Monday, August 4th – the City Attorney and Mayor affirmed the news. To quote City Attorney Feldman: “There are simply too many documents with irregularities and problems to overlook. The petition is simply invalid. There is no other conclusion.”
Predictably, the #HERO opponents were unhappy and lost no time in vowing to take the battle to court. We’ll see what happens, but even if by some legal maneuver this ends up on the ballot, we agree with Mayor Parker’s assessment that “clearly, the majority of Houstonians were not interested in a repeal process” and that equality will win the day. Whether in court, at the ballot box or at the water cooler, we’re ready for the next round in the quest to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to be Out AND Equal!
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