Friday, April 17, 2015

Breaking - Judge hands Houston a huge victory & the religious right a huge kick in the butt

Mike Huckabee and a lot of other folks have a bunch of egg on their faces tonight.

Excellent news out of Houston which means that a trans-inclusive equality ordinance wins and the religious right suffers a huge embarrassment.

From The Houston Chronicle:

Opponents of Houston's non-discrimination ordinance failed to gather enough valid signatures to force a repeal referendum, a state district judge ruled Friday, validating city officials' decision to toss out the petition foes submitted last summer.

After separate rulings from both a jury and state District Judge Robert Schaffer, attorneys for both sides entered dueling counts of the valid signatures, adding and subtracting voters as Schaffer responded to motions. By early this week, the counts were closer together than ever before, fewer than 1,000 signatures apart.

Ultimately, Schaffer on Friday ruled the final count of valid signatures was 16,684, leaving opponents short of the threshold required in the city charter of 17,249 signatures, or 10 percent of the ballots cast in the last mayoral election.

Last year,  the Houston City Council passed a transgender inclusive equality rights ordinance (HERO). Opponents of the ordinance rallied in August and claimed to have gathered more than enough signatures to force a referendum. However, according to city, the signatures contained many errors and taking this into account, a lot of them were disqualified, thereby meaning that HERO opponents had failed in their attempt.  In addition, there were accusations that they were engaging in underhanded tactics to gain signatures. 

Faced with this defeat, the HERO opponents sued the city of Houston, claiming that they did in fact get enough signatures.

According to Equality Matters:

On November 2, thousands of conservatives met in Houston at the “I Stand Sunday” rally to demand that the city government allow for a public vote on the ordinance, despite the failure of the repeal petition. The event, which was hosted by the anti-gay hate group Family Research Council (FRC), was widely promoted by Fox News and featured speeches from Fox’s Todd Starnes and Mike Huckabee.

At the rally, speakers demanded that the city of Houston “let the people vote” on the ordinance, accusing openly gay Mayor Annise Parker of violating the religious liberty of HERO’s opponents by refusing to count their improperly collected signatures.

These speakers and their supporters were helped by a bad strategic move on the part of the lawyers defending the city in the lawsuit. In an attempt to gain information to help the city, the lawyers issued a subpoena for information from five pastors engaged in the signature gathering process, including speeches, presentations, and sermons having to do with HERO.

The religious right and their conservative cohorts, especially on Fox News, falsely spun this request as an attempt by the city to bully pastors.  The outcry became so wild that Houston Mayor Annise Parker asked that the attorneys rescind the subpoena request. However, not wanting to let go of a good story of so-called anti-Christian persecution, groups like the Family Research Council and individuals like Fox News' Todd Starnes, Mike Huckabee, and Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson headlined the widely attended event, 'I Stand Sunday,' in which they portrayed the city of Houston as a force of evil and those seeking to overturn HERO as "innocent Christians attempting to stand up to tyranny."

Of course, all of that is rather moot now, except for the simple fact that all of those folks who spun tales of anti-Christian persecution in Houston now have egg on their faces, which they richly deserve. This was not a case of anti-Christian persecution. It was a case of a bunch of folks who did not follow the rules and instead of letting things go, allowed themselves to be manipulated and exploited by national false Christian leaders who didn't give a flip about anything but their own public profiles.

 HERO is now in effect, even though opponents said that they would appeal. In a statement, however, Mayor Parker urged them to just let the situation end:

"I would hope that the plaintiffs would not appeal, they lost during a jury trial and today they also lost with the judge's ruling," Parker said. "Now all Houstonians have access to the same protections."

Photo courtesy of Equality Matters

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