Houston Hub




Judge To Decide This Week Whether Petition To Repeal Houston LGBT Protections Qualifies For Ballot

HERO

Nearly a year after the Houston City Council approved an Equal Rights Ordinance, a judge is expected to rule this week on whether anti-LGBT groups gathered enough valid signatures to place a repeal of the measure on the ballot. 

The city filed a motion Friday alleging that opponents of the ordinance remain 650 signatures short of the number needed to trigger a referendum. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

TaylorThe city's latest count puts conservative opponents of the law closer to triggering a vote than ever before, but still short of the needed 17,269 valid signatures.

"Under the jury's verdict, and under any honest application of the court's rulings, plaintiffs lose, the city wins, and civil rights are safe in Houston, Texas," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. ... 

Andy Taylor (right), attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was not fazed by the city's filing Friday and would submit his own count Monday proving opponents have a valid petition.

"I'm excited to report that our number exceeds the minimum number required so we're going to get to have an election for the city of Houston," Taylor said.

ParkerMayor Annise Parker has placed enforcement of the ordinance, known as "HERO," on hold pending the outcome of the case. In February, supporters of HERO reported that since it passed, 84 cases of discrimination had been reported to the city's Office of the Inspector General, including 52 that would have been covered by the ordinance. From HouEquality.com

These reported cases of discrimination run the gambit of protected characteristics, from race to age to gender to disability to sexual orientation to gender identity to national origin to veteran status.  

If you look at the math, that breaks down to 1.6 people every week who are actively facing discrimination in some form and who have no local remedy because HERO is not in effect. To look at it another way that is almost 7 people (6.9 to be exact) every month. 

After Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections, opponents launched a petition drive to repeal them. The city eventually rejected the petition, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  

Anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit, and in February a jury determined that among other things, the petition contained widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. In late March, Schaffer revealed that opponents of the ordinance were roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remained in question because they appeared on pages circulated by people whose names weren't legible. 

Opponents have vowed to appeal if Schaffer determines they don't have enough valid signatures. 

Houston officials rejected a separate petition last week aimed at repealing the ordinance — and enshrining a transgender bathroom ban in the city charter — after the organizer misread rules about the number of required signatures.  


Houston Rejects Anti-Trans Petition Due To Bigot's Embarrassing Blunder

Wilson

Last week we told you how anti-LGBT Houston activist Dave Wilson wants to enshrine a transgender bathroom ban in the city charter.

Earlier today, Wilson turned in his petition seeking to repeal transgender protections in both the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and Mayor Annise Parker's 2012 executive order covering city employees.

But apparently Wilson misread the rules for amending the city charter. He was under the impression that he needed only 17,200 signatures on the petition for his proposal to appear on the ballot. However, Texas law clearly states that he needed 20,000 signatures. As a result, the city rejected Wilson's petition. 

From KHOU-TV

Parker.Annise4"On its face, there's no reason to count them," said Mayor Annise Parker. "And I have no clue what he thought he might achieve by turning in an insufficient number of petitions, other than to show that he couldn't collect enough petitions."

Wilson later conceded he hadn't turned in enough signatures because he misread the arcane rules surrounding petition drives.

He confused the city's requirements for repealing an ordinance with the state's rules for amending city charters. Wilson said he collected roughly 19,700 signatures, but the state's local government code requires at least 20,000.

Wilson — who infamously got elected to the Houston Community College board by pretending to be black — plans to collect the additional 300 required signatures. However, Parker said it's too late — he's already turned in the petition. Besides, the mayor said, because Wilson's petition aims to repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance, it needed to be turned in within 30 days of the law's passage last May: 

"We're going to stack 'em up and put 'em on a shelf someplace," Parker said of the petitions. "And we're not going to process them."

The city also rejected a separate petition to repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures due to problems such as rampant forgery. Anti-LGBT activists sued the city over the decision, and a judge is expected to issue a ruling soon. 

At some point, you'd think these folks would learn not to mess with Parker. 


Anti-LGBT Houston Activist Wants To Enshrine Transgender Bathroom Ban In City Charter: VIDEO

Wilson

An anti-LGBT Houston activist says he has enough signatures to force a public vote on a charter amendment that would ban transgender protections in the city. 

Dave Wilson (above), of Houstonians For Family Values, led efforts to pass a charter amendment prohibiting domestic partner benefits in 2001. He also made headlines in 2013 when he deceived voters into thinking he was black to get elected to the Houston Community College board.

Now, Wilson wants to repeal transgender protections in both the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and Mayor Annise Parker's 2012 executive order covering city employees.     

From KHOU.com

"Whatever you're born with you have to live with, that's what this is basically saying," said Dave Wilson, a HCC Trustee. ... 

"What I'm talking about doing is a charter amendment change, which permanently codifies into the city charter the fact that men cannot use the women's bathroom," said Wilson.

Last May, the Houston City Council passed an Equal Rights Ordinance that includes transgender protections. However, opponents of the ordinance sued the city after officials rejected their petition to repeal it. The case is still pending, but Wilson says the effort to repeal the Equal Rights Ordinance isn't enough. From the mailer that accompanies Wilson's petition: 

"The current lawsuit against the Mayor's bathroom ordinance will not stop her. We must change the City Charter to prohibit her (or any future mayor) from passing Executive Orders or Ordinances. An amendment to the City Charter is the only permanent solution. What happens to the citizens of Houston and their City government when both have largely forgotten God and instead worship pleasure over principle and elevate lust over love? If you feel that getting involved in politics and signing the enclosed petition is beneath your dignity because you want to focus on worshipping and not politics, you better think again! Your religious freedom will evaporate in the absence of political freedom." 

According to the website of Houstonians For Family Values, the charter amendment would read as follows: 

"Except as required by State or Federal law, the City of Houston shall only define 'Gender Identity' as an Individual's Innate Identification, as either male or female, which Is assigned at birth. Perceived gender identification Is not allowed In defining 'Gender Identity.' Furthermore, the City of Houston shall require entities doing business with the city to adopt the same definition of 'Gender Identity.'" 

According to Texas state law, the proposed charter amendment would need 20,000 signatures to be placed on the ballot. In the case of the Equal Rights Ordinance, the city said opponents failed to gather the required 17,269 signatures. 

Wilson told KHOU he has enough signatures to put the charter amendment on the ballot and plans to turn them in next week. Even assuming that's true, the real question will be, how many of them are actually valid?

Watch KHOU's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Anti-LGBT Houston Activist Wants To Enshrine Transgender Bathroom Ban In City Charter: VIDEO" »


Houston Mayor Annise Parker Opens Up About Marriage, Family In Powerful Interview: VIDEO

Parker

Most people know Annise Parker as the first openly LGBT person elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

But few, at least nationally, know that she and her wife are also the mothers of four children — one African-American and three biracial.

With Parker's final two-year term as mayor of the nation's fourth-largest city winding down, she and her wife opened up about their family in a recent interview with Houston's KTRK-TV

Not that they've ever been shy about the subject. 

"We're so far out of the closet that we live on the front lawn," Parker's wife, Kathy Hubbard, says. 

Nevertheless, the powerful, humanizing interview could come at an important time, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to consider same-sex marriage, the LGBT community under siege in the Texas Legislature, and the battle over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance raging on.

In the interview, Parker talks about how the couple took in their son after meeting him at a gay Pride parade when he was a homeless teen. Today, he is sometimes mistaken as a member of the mayor's security team.

Parker and Hubbard also discuss their struggle to adopt their first daughter in the face of an anti-LGBT judge and a foster family that told the 7-year-old if she went to live with them, she would burn in hell. And they talk about the significance of their marriage in California last year. 

"It felt very special. We're still walking on air," Hubbard says.

Parker also spoke recently with The Washington Post for a biographical piece that touches on her possible political future after she leaves office at the end of the year. 

Watch KTRK's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Houston Mayor Annise Parker Opens Up About Marriage, Family In Powerful Interview: VIDEO" »


Houston Hate Crime Victim Suing Former Employer For Alleged Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO

Gaspari

Earlier this month we told you how Houston gay activist John Gaspari was shot in the stomach in an apparent hate crime in the city's Montrose gayborhood. 

Gaspari was leaving a gay bar in the early morning hours of Feb. 15 when he was jumped by three men who robbed him, beat him and shot him while yelling, "Get the fag." The incident was among several recent anti-LGBT attacks in Montrose.  

We also mentioned that Gaspari had recently lost his job after suffering anti-gay discrimination. And as it turns out, Gaspari is suing his former employer, FMC Technologies Inc.

Gaspari said the anti-gay discrimination and harassment began immediately after he moved from Chicago to work at FMC Technologies' headquarters in Houston in 2012. Fox 26 reports:  

Gaspari says he thought he would be an employee of FMC Technologies until he retired.

“I was excited to come here,” says Gaspari.

But now he's suing and based on the claims of his lawsuit his time there as a global supplier development engineer was fraught with gay slurs and mocking limp wrist gestures.

“Actually would come up to me and call me a fashionista he would flick his wrist at me make other comments that weren't appropriate,“ Gaspari said. “Telling me I should live in the Montrose area by my kind.”

According to Fox 26, FMC Technologies denies the allegations in Gaspari's lawsuit, which was filed back in 2013. FMC Technologies provides equipment and services to oil and gas companies and employs nearly 20,000 people worldwide. 

In an email, Gaspari noted that the case is before U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes, who has a history of discriminatory comments: 

"Once they discovered my sexuality, I have been discriminated, harassed, retaliated against, ostracized in a hostile work environment. I have been punched by my boss, slapped, called a Fag, Girl, Sister, Fashonista to name a few. It is the worst experience to have to go through and still go into work to try and perform your job and it was all reported to management, sr management and HR and it did not stop. They just turned their head."

FMC Technologies received a score of 15 out of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Corporate Equality Index. According to HRC, the company has a policy in its employee handbook prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation — which accounts for the 15 points. 

Texas has no statewide LGBT employment protections, so Gaspari is pursuing a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act. He is joined in his lawsuit by two co-plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment and racial discrimination by the company.  

The Houston City Council passed an LGBT-inclusive Equal Rights Ordinance last year, but Mayor Annise Parker has suspended its implementation pending the outcome of a lawsuit aimed at repealing it

Watch Fox 26's report on Gaspari's lawsuit, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Houston Hate Crime Victim Suing Former Employer For Alleged Anti-Gay Discrimination: VIDEO" »


Could Repealing LGBT Protections Cost Houston The 2016 Final Four, 2017 Super Bowl?

FinalFour

Since Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed an anti-LGBT religious freedom bill this week, the backlash has been enormous. 

Celebrities, corporationschurches and even the White House have come out against the discriminatory law — with some announcing boycotts of the Hoosier State. They include the NCAA, which issued a statement saying it's concerned about how the law will affect its student-athletes and employees during the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis next weekend. There's also a petition calling for the Big 10 Conference to move its football championship out of Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, in Houston — which is scheduled to host the 2016 Final Four and the 2017 Super Bowl — anti-LGBT groups continue their efforts repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the City Council last year. 

Super-Bowl-Houston-BannerAfter Houston became the last major city in the US to add LGBT protections in May, opponents launched a petition drive to repeal them. The city eventually rejected the petition, saying it didn't have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.  

Anti-LGBT groups filed a lawsuit, and last month a jury determined that among other things, the petition contains widespread forgery. Based on the jury's determinations about which signatures should be considered valid, Judge Robert Schaffer began a final count. More than a month later, Schaffer revealed this week that opponents of the ordinance are roughly 3,000 signatures short of the 17,269 needed to qualify for the ballot. However, approximately 8,500 signatures remain in question because they appear on pages circulated by people whose names aren't legible. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

The plaintiffs argue that legibility should not be a factor.

"We can't empower the government with the right to be the judge, jury and executioner on whether somebody has a right to vote based on penmanship," said Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs.

The city, however, contends that if they can't determine who a circulator is based on their signature or printed name, all the other signatures collected on that page should be discarded, per city charter and the judge's ruling.

"The plaintiffs are mounting every desperate challenge they possibly can to try to overcome the effect of the jury's verdict and the effect of the judge's post-verdict rulings," said Geoffrey Harrison, lead attorney for the city. "The plaintiffs lost at trial. They lose on the law. They lose on the facts. But they are prolonging this process by refusing to accept reality."

Judge Schaffer is expected to rule in early April on the final signature count. If he determines the petition has enough valid signatures, the ordinance likely would appear on the November ballot. If he determines the petition doesn't have enough valid signatures, the plaintiffs are expected to appeal.  

Either way, perhaps opponents of the ordinance and other citizens of Houston should take note of what's happening in Indiana. If Houston repeals LGBT protections and again becomes the only major US city without them, it's hard to imagine there wouldn't be a push to get the NCAA to move the 2016 Final Four and to get the NFL to move the 2017 Super Bowl — among other things. 

Texas lawmakers might also want to take note, as several measures similar to the Indiana bill have been introduced in the current session of the state Legislature.

Houston and Texas have a reputation as business-friendly places, but judging by what's happened in Indiana, that could easily and very quickly change. 


Trending



Towleroad - Blogged