Annise Parker is a glutton for punishment.
For the fourth time, the courts have reprimanded Houston’s lesbian mayor for her deceptive practices in pushing the LGBT agenda. This time, the Texas Supreme Court called out the Houston City Council too.
Parker initially made national headlines last year, when she tried to subpoena the sermons of local pastors in an effort to control speech from the pulpit. Rush Limbaugh at the time called it “one of the most vile, filthy, blatant violations of the Constitution that I have seen.”
Parker’s latest brush with the law stems from an ordinance, dubbed the “Equal Rights Ordinance,” designed to allow transgenders to use public restrooms based on their gender identity rather than their sex.
After the City Council initially passed the ordinance, a determined group of citizens – led by the same pastors the mayor tried to censor last year – started a petition to repeal the measure, and quickly gathered the 50,000 signatures that statutorily bind the city to either repeal the bill or put it to a ballot referendum.
Parker and the City Attorney didn’t like that move, so they arbitrarily disqualified signatures from the petition. The problem being, the city Secretary had already certified the signatures, and nobody else involved had the authority to gainsay that.
Parker made her intent to flout the rules clear, when she declared that the entire conversation about LGBT rights is, for her, personal. “The debate is about me. It’s not academic. It is my life that is being discussed,” she said.
With those words, Parker indicated that the courts rebuked her personally when they ruled that the petition was in fact legitimate, and the Council must obey its statutory obligations to either repeal the law, or put it on the ballot. Parker and the Council instead chose their own (illegal) path again.
Instead of a repeal, or a referendum on the ballot, the Council decided to put the repeal of the statute on the ballot.
Cue the state Supreme Court: “The charter clearly requires the vote to be on the ordinance itself rather than its repeal.
“Here, the city council determined that voters should choose between ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ regarding the repeal of the ordinance. The charter, however, when read in conjunction with the Election Code, requires a choice of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ (or ‘For’ or “Against’) as to the ordinance itself.
“Because the charter clearly defines the city council’s obligation to submit the ordinance – rather than its repeal – to the voters and gives the city council no discretion not to, we hold that this is a ministerial duty,” the court said.
The ruling as stated, in addition to compelling the Council to honor its duties, has the effect of suspending the law.
“If the city council does not repeal the ordinance by August 24, 2015, then by that date the city council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election,” the court ruled. “‘The power of . . . referendum . . . is the exercise by the people of a power reserved to them,’ and this power should be protected.”
With the Court’s rebuke fresh in their minds, the Council members finally drafted a ballot referendum that, although still misleading, actually passes legal muster: “Are you in favor of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Ord. No. 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment and housing based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy?”
David Welch, a spokesman for the coalition responsible for the petition, was frank in his assessment of the ruling and the mayor. “Recognizing that Mayor Parker has attempted every possible means of silencing the voters of the city, repeatedly violating the law while doing so, we are pleased that ‘We the People’ will finally have the opportunity to speak on whether Houston should criminalize people of faith, suppress religious freedom and allow men in women’s restrooms,” he said.
State Senator Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston) called out Parker for her four-loss streak, saying the mayor refuses to “get straight with the law.”
“Taxpayers have a right to know that their money is not being spent to circumvent the law,” he continued. “The recent ruling by the Texas Supreme Court continues to show that Houston does indeed have a problem.
“It is now more than clear that the city of Houston is forcing taxpayers to spend their personal money against the government simply to get Mayor Annise Parker and the city to follow the law. It is not the role of local government to spend taxpayer money to actively ignore lawfully collected petition signatures and suppress petitions signed by those they are sworn to represent, much less use deceptive ballot language, per a Supreme Court ruling,” he said.
The end result is that, after several attempts at heavy-handed dictatorial tactics, the citizens of Houston have gotten at least some of their voice back.