Opponents of equality — including Texas Pastor Council Executive Director Dave Welch (above) — are fond of saying that LGBT people comprise such a small fraction of the overall population that there's no valid justification for granting them "special rights."
But now, suddenly, Welch and fellow anti-LGBT activists in Houston have decided that they are in fact the little guy.
The Houston Chronicle reports on closing arguments Thursday in a jury trial over the lawsuit seeking to repeal the city's Equal Rights Ordinance:
Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs, painted the case as pitting the desire of the people to vote versus an all-powerful City Hall. Gesturing to the city's many pro bono lawyers, Taylor invoked the Bible. He stacked the binders of signatures opponents collected, allowing the "thump" of each to echo in the courtroom.
"Help us beat Goliath," Taylor said. "Help us beat City Hall."
The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon and will resume on Monday, the Chronicle reports.
If jurors decide there are enough valid signatures on a petition to repeal the ordinance, a referendum likely would appear on the ballot in November. If not, the ordinance may finally take effect — nine months after it was approved by the City Council.
Opponents claimed they gathered more than 30,000 signatures on the petition to repeal the ordinance, but the city determined that only 16,500 signatures were valid, fewer than the 17,269 needed. Attorneys for the city now say that based on a subsequent review, only 3,905 signatures on the petition are valid.
During closing arguments, attorneys for the city reportedly focused on technical issues about whether specific signatures and pages met requirements laid out in the city charter — including allegations of fraud, forgery and perjury. Meanwhile, opponents of the ordinance tried to pander to jurors' emotions.
Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney the city, told KPRC-TV:
"Both sides laid out their case. The city's side was based on the evidence, facts and testimony, and the plaintiffs' case, like much of its presentation during trial, was based on bluster utterly divorced from the evidence."
Earlier in the week, Mayor Annise Parker took the stand in the trial, later holding a news conference to reiterate some of the issues:
"I want to be clear: There was fraud, there was forgery. There were lots and lots of mistakes," Parker said. "But the vast majority of things that were disqualified, pages that were disqualified, was because they didn't follow the form and the process laid out in the charter, and that's not optional."
Also testifying this week was former City Attorney Dave Feldman, who shed further light on problems with the petition: Incendiary language attacking the merits of the ordinance at the top of the pages took up so much space that there wasn't sufficient room at the bottom for the oath, signature and notarization.
Others who testified included a handwriting expert who called into question a large number of signatures — including one belonging to the wife of Jared Woodfill, the anti-gay attorney who filed the lawsuit, which appears to have been forged.
Both sides say they'll appeal if they lose, according to reports.
Brad Pritchett at HouEquality.com live-tweeted the closing arguments. Here are a few highlights:
Watch KPRC-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...