Opponents of LGBT protections in Plano, Texas, say they've gathered enough signatures to place a repeal of the city's Equal Rights Ordinance on the ballot in May.
The Texas Pastor Council, led by Dave Welch (above), announced in an email Tuesday morning that it has gathered at least 5,500 signatures to repeal the ordinance — more than the 3,822 required by the Jan. 20 deadline:
As this is being written, the count reached 5,500, with as many as 2,000 more expected in the morning, hopefully bringing the total to well over 7,000. Volunteers will be working late into the night and tomorrow to verify as many of these signatures as possible before they are turned-in to the City Secretary on Tuesday. This effort will continue until every name is verified.
A spokesperson for the group thanked God for divine intervention and praised the dozens and dozens of volunteers from the diverse coalition that pulled together through the holiday season, to accomplish this remarkable goal.
"In spite of the challenges created by the suspect timing of the City Council's passage of this ordinance, we set a goal to collect twice the minimum number of signatures needed. We want to send a clear message to Mayor LaRosiliere, and Councilmen Miner, Davidson, Smith, and Downs who all voted for this ordinance. You can ignore the citizens at the City Council meeting, but we will make our voices heard with this petition and next May at the polls. …
"We are certain that once Plano citizens realize the City Council has criminalized religious views about sex and gender, the ordinance will be rejected overwhelmingly at the polls. The citizens of Plano are good and decent and treat one another with respect, so criminalizing the beliefs of our diverse communities of faith does not advance the common good," said the spokesperson.
The Plano City Council approved the ordinance in a 5-3 vote on Dec. 8 amid intense opposition from anti-LGBT groups and Republican elected officials.
The ordinance prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. However, it has come under fire from transgender advocates over exemptions for bathrooms, nonprofits and educational institutions.
Once they're turned in, city officials will begin the process of validating signatures on the petition. If they determine there are enough valid signatures, the City Council can either vote to repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot in the next municipal election, which is May 9.
In Houston, the Texas Pastor Council claimed to have more than 50,000 signatures to repeal an Equal Rights Ordinance last year. However, city officials determined that only 15,249 of the signatures were valid — fewer than the 17,269 needed to place the ordinance on the ballot.
That prompted a lawsuit from opponents of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance, and the case is headed to trial this week. In court documents, the city has allleged that opponents of the ordinance forged signatures and used other fraudulent tactics.