Anti-LGBT bigots may have won a temporary victory over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance on Nov. 3, but they’re still out the $650,000 they poured into their legal battle to repeal HERO.
A federal district judge last week dismissed a lawsuit from anti-LGBT pastors alleging the city and Mayor Annise Parker violated their constitutional rights by rejecting a petition to repeal the ordinance and subpoenaing their sermons.
The pastors, led by the Houston Pastor Council, filed the civil-rights lawsuit in an effort to recoup their costs after waging an 18-month court battle against Parker and the city.
U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore dismissed the lawsuit on Dec. 1, saying the pastors lacked standing and failed to present a valid constitutional claim. Among other things, Gilmore noted that four of the five pastors listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit don’t even live in Houston.
The pastors now say they’re considering an appeal. Dave Welch, executive director of the Houston Pastor Council, noted in a press release that Gilmore was appointed by President Bill Clinton.
“If the executive of a major city can, without any fear of recourse, abuse the fiduciary trust of the office to suppress the right of the citizens to exercise our right to vote, followed with an attempt to use raw intimidation by demanding the content of our pulpit speech that had no bearing on the merits of the case, with over a half million dollars in legal costs incurred by the citizens to simply restore our rights, we have given a green light to Chicago-style corruption in Houston,” Welch said.
The group added that “the speed by which Judge Gilmore granted the dismissal was suspicious,” given that Parker is leaving office at the end of the year.
“Frankly, this has all the appearance of attempting to deep six this case before a new administration is seated and can settle with the pastors, as a favor to her friend and political ally,” Welch said. “We did not yield to that kind of injustice in defeating the Mayor’s attempted assault on decency, public safety and freedom; we will certainly not yield in seeking recompense for the injury to the fundamental rights of citizens.”
The Pastor Council initially sued the city after officials rejected their petition to repeal the ordinance last year. In defending the lawsuit, attorneys for the city subpoenaed the sermons of pastors who opposed the ordinance. But Parker later withdrew the subpoenas amid national outcry from the religious right. A district judge upheld the city’s decision to reject the petition, saying it didn’t have enough valid signatures due to problems like widespread forgery. But then the Pastor Council obtained a decision from the elected, all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, which ordered the city to repeal the ordinance or place it on the ballot. The pastors filed their civil rights lawsuit against Parker and the city in the wake of the Texas Supreme Court’s decision.