An attempt to overturn Houston’s new Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) has failed, Mayor Annise Parker announced Monday afternoon. Conservative submitted signatures last month to challenge the new law, which includes LGBT nondiscrimination protections, at the ballot. Despite claiming to have collected substantially more than they needed, many were disqualified for not meeting the city’s legal requirements.
According to City Attorney Dave Feldman, opponents of the law fell short of the 17,269 necessary to qualify for the ballot. Because there were so many anomalies among the signatures, — fewer than half the pages qualified — “The petition is invalid,” he announced Monday. In some cases, the circulator of the petitions did not sign off on the signatures or was not a certified voter, and many of the voters on the pages were not registered voters. Parker added that there were technically enough signatures for a the referendum to qualify, but there were too many irregularities in the pages for them all to count.
Brad Pritchett, who has managed the HOUequality website and helped organize volunteers to check the signatures’ validity, told ThinkProgress that this is a big win for the city’s LGBT community: “We had over 100 volunteers sifting through the opposition’s petitions, uncovering legal problems, duplicate signatures and possible fraud. We are excited to see that the City of Houston’s separate review process came to the same conclusion.”
Still, Pritchett explained, the fight is likely to continue in the courts. “We know the opponents to equal rights in Houston will likely challenge the decision in court, but we are confident that we will win there as well,” he said. “If we have to take this fight to the ballot box, we have no doubt that supporters of HERO are more invested in this ordinance than ever before and we will win there if necessary.”
Mayor Parker announced that she would delay implementation of HERO until the question is fully resolved.