Steve Hotze, the leader of an anti-LGBT hate group in Houston, is suing over an order requiring residents to wear face masks in public places for the next 30 days.
Hotze, who heads the Conservative Republicans of Texas, is seeking a restraining order blocking an order from Democratic Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo that’s set to take effect Monday.
The Texas Tribune reports: “The rights we enjoy under the Texas Constitution are being trampled on by Judge Hidalgo, while millions of individuals have lost their jobs and thousands of businesses are on the brink of bankruptcy,” Hotze’s petition to the Harris County District Court reads. “If Judge Hidalgo’s Order is not declared unconstitutional and void, once this virus passes, the rights we are afforded under the Texas Constitution will forever be damaged.” Hidalgo’s order, signed Wednesday and slated to take effect ,Monday, comes after similar measures were taken by local officials in Austin, Dallas and Laredo to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. According to the order, violations are punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. Jared Woodfill, who is representing Hotze, said Hidalgo must show a compelling governmental interest and ensure the infringement on private residents’ rights is narrow; he believes she’s satisfied neither requirement.
Hotze previously sued Hidalgo over her stay-at-home order, which he is asking the Texas Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional.
The Houston Chronicle reports: Hotze and the pastors argue the order also “severely infringes” on Second Amendment rights by closing gun stores. The order does not define gun shops as essential businesses, though Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an opinion Friday that stay-at-home orders cannot force gun stores to close or otherwise restrict sales or transfers. Throughout the petition, Hotze and the pastors argue that “the circumstances presented by coronavirus do not excuse unlawful government infringements” and “the free exercise of religion…should not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency.” They also contend that Hidalgo’s order “picks winners and losers.”
Five years ago, Hotze bankrolled a successful campaign to repeal Houston’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. He has said the ordinance was part of a “satanic movement,” and pledged to drive “Nazi” gay “cults” out of Houston.
Hotze has also claimed same-sex marriage will lead to teachers encouraging kindergarteners trying gay sex, and compared gay people to termites who are eating away at the foundation of America.