Houston’s city council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on an ordinance to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But anti-gay activist and Houston Community College Board of Trustees member Dave Wilson (R) is threatening to recall openly lesbian Mayor Annise Parker (D) and any city council members who support the non-discrimination policy.
According to KHOU 11 News, Wilson said he and other opponents of LGBT equality might collect signatures to recall anyone who backs the proposal under the city charter’s recall provision to allow removal of officials in cases of “incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office.” Wilson told the station, “we consider them to be incompetent,” as he believes passage of the law would violate state law. “This is absurd, it’s unheard of,” he said of the proposed protections, adding, “It’s nothing but pure payback for the mayor. She’s paying back her core constituents that supported her.”
Though the threat could scare off some support — just 2,500 signatures would be required to mandate a recall election for a city council member — recall expert Joshua Spivak noted on his Recall Elections Blog Saturday that the claim that this vote shows incompetence would “probably will be extremely difficult to hold up in court.” Indeed Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Antonio all have already passed LGBT non-discrimination ordinances without incident.
This is the latest in a long series of attacks of Parker launched by Wilson. In 2011, he got just 11.73 percent of the vote against Parker for Mayor of Houston. In that campaign, he mailed a flier to 35,000 voters featuring a picture of Parker standing by her same-sex partner and the caption “IS THIS THE IMAGE HOUSTON WANTS TO PORTRAY?” and made robo-calls to warn voters of Parker’s “alternative lifestyle.”
At the time, he told a local news station that he opposed Parker because “[t]he openly gay lifestyle leads to extinction.” On his campaign website, he introduced himself as “the ‘narrow minded bigot’ that Annise Parker refers to in the letter she sent out to homosexuals and lesbians in San Francisco to raise money to continue to promote the homosexual agenda.”
After vowing in that unsuccessful campaign to “just do what’s right,” two years later Wilson narrowly won election to the Houston Community College Board of Trustees after misleading voters into believing that he is African American. In an overwhelmingly African American-dominated district, Wilson filled mailers with photos of African American people he admittedly pull off of websites, along with captions such as “Please vote for our friend and neighbor Dave Wilson.” One flier boasted of an endorsement from Ron Wilson — the name of an African American former state representative — only noting in fine print that this Ron Wilson was indeed his own cousin in Iowa. Asked by a local TV station about the stunt, Wilson explained, “[e]very time a politician talks, he’s out there deceiving voters.” A legal challenge into his eligibility, based on residency questions, remains on-going.
Houston, the nation’s fourth most populous city, is one of the only large cities in the country without any municipal nondiscrimination protections.