Officials in Plano, Texas, say they're "evaluating legal issues" involving a petition to repeal the city's Equal Rights Ordinance.
City officials initially said they expected to know by the end of January whether the petition contains enough valid signatures to force the City Council to repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot.
However, in a press release posted on its website Wednesday, the city wrote:
The Plano City Council will receive a report on Equal Rights petitions at their regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, February 23, 2015. The City is still diligently reviewing the petitions and evaluating legal issues surrounding them. More than 900 pages of petitions were turned in to the City Secretary on January 20th. The petitons call for either a repeal of the Equal Rights Ordinance approved by council on or a public vote. By placing the issue on the February 23 Council agenda, it would allow the Council time to place the issue on the May ballot before the February 27th deadline, if that is their desire.
In another version of the press release sent to media outlets, the city wrote:
A petition challenging the Plano Equal Rights Ordinance was submitted to the City Secretary on January 20, 2015. The City is in the process of verifying more than 900 pages of signatures to determine compliance with local and state requirements on the issue. If at least 3,822 signatures are validated, the City Council may repeal the ordinance or submit it to the voters in the upcoming May election. This matter will be presented to City Council at the regularly scheduled meeting on February 23, 2015.
The City Council in Plano — a large, conservative suburb of Dallas — approved the ordinance 5-3 on Dec. 8 amid intense opposition from anti-LGBT groups and local Republican lawmakers. The ordinance also faces opposition from transgender activists over an exemption for restrooms, nonprofits and educational institutions. And the Human Rights Campaign has said it doesn't plan to defend the ordinance at the ballot due to the "transphobic" exclusions.
But the city's reference to "legal issues" surrounding the petition raises the specter of a similar battle to the one unfolding in Houston. There, the city rejected a petition aimed at repealing its Equal Rights Ordinance, saying too many of the signatures were invalid due to things like fraud, forgery and perjury. That prompted a lawsuit from opponents, and a jury trial is under way.
Incidentally, the same group behind the Houston petition — the Texas Pastor Council — also spearheaded the anti-LGBT campaign in Plano.