Again! Houston pastors go to court to enforce city charter

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Houston Mayor Annise Parker

Houston’s lesbian mayor, who once subpoenaed the sermons of local pastors in her fight for a transgender ordinance, apparently isn’t giving up, even though the state Supreme Court recently slapped down her arguments.

Pastors and other members of the city’s No Unequal Rights coalition said Friday they are returning to court against Annise Parker, who was found to be in violation of the city’s charter, with a claim she’s violating the city charter, again, in how she’s chosen to describe that ordinance to residents in the coming election.

Coalition attorney Andy Taylor confirmed an Emergency Motion for Expedited Relief is being filed with the Texas Supreme Court “to seek a mandamus ordering the mayor and city council to submit ballot language for her ‘Equal Rights Ordinance’ that conforms with the city charter.”

He already had argued before the city council for alignment with the city charter, pointing out the city charter requires a vote on ordinances when opponents collect enough signatures of residents.

That provision, Section VII-b, Section 3, specifically requires, “the council shall immediately reconsider such ordinance or resolution and, if it does not entirely repeal the same, shall submit it to popular vote at the next city general election, or the council may, in its discretion, call a special election for that purpose; and such ordinance or resolution shall not take effect unless a majority of the qualified voters voting thereon at such election shall vote in favor thereof.”

Just what is going on in America? The details all are in “A Queer Thing Happened to America,” which explains how America of 40 years ago, when most knew little about homosexuality, arrived at the point that one can’t watch a sitcom without being indoctrinated with the “gay” lifestyle.

But the wording adopted by the city for the November election regarding the proposed ordinance that would allow men who describe themselves as women to use women’s facilities in public locations like locker rooms and recreation centers, and vice versa, provides that a vote “in favor” would be to repeal.

Which reverses what many people would expect.

Taylor explained that the prescribed language allows citizens to vote “for” a dispute ordinance.

The mayor, and her council, instead have set up language offering citizens an opportunity to “repeal” the disputed plan.

They are moving forward with plans to propose on the ballot: “Shall the city of Houston repeal 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?”

The coalition said the language is “leading and manipulative” and to meet the requirements of the charter should be changed.

The coalition points out that, technically, there is no ordinance to repeal because once an election has been set, there is no enforcement allowed of such a measure.

“Our position is that regardless of whose political advantage it achieves, the city charter requires an affirmative vote to adopt the ordinance, a negative vote to defeat the ordinance and since we have fought for and stood for the rule of law, we will continue to do so, trusting God and His truth to prevail,” the coalition statement Friday said.

In the petition to the state Supreme Court, the coalition explains:

“The coalition’s chief concern about the ordinance is that it would potentially endow a biological male with the legal right to forcibly enter a women’s public restroom without the knowledge or consent of the adult or minor females using that Houston facility.”

It cited the recent opinion under which the city was “ordered to either repeal the suspended ordinance in its entirely, or else place it on the ballot for a public vote.”

But the language proposed for the vote “is in direct conflict with the non-discretionary and unambiguous terms of the Houston city charter.”

“Because the charter language … requires a majority of the popular vote in favor thereof, the respondents have a clear and unmistakable ministerial duty to submit the suspended ordinance to the electorate in such a manner that a voter may cast a ‘Yes’ or ‘For’ vote if they are in favor of the ordinance, and a ‘No’ or ‘Against’ vote if [they] are not in favor of the ordinance,” the coalition told the court.

The charter, the court filing explains, does not allow for a vote on whether the city should “repeal” a suspended ordinance.

“This format is legally wrong, as it perverts the clear mandate from the charter and reverses or flips the impact of a vote in favor of a vote in disfavor of the suspended ordinance. More specifically, the respondents’ current wording would require a voter who is in favor of the suspended ordinance to vote ‘No’ or ‘Against’ the proposition, while a voter who is not in favor of the suspended ordinance to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘For’ the suspended ordinance.

“This is a legal recipe for an electoral disaster. Voters will be confused, because someone who is against the proposition cannot vote against…”

The city council and mayor have a “fundamental misunderstanding” of their own charter, the brief explains.

“The purpose of a [referendum] petition is to ask the city council – not the electorate – to repeal the ordinance. If the city council fails to repeal, then the electorate gets to vote, up or down, on the exact same ordinance. But the public vote is not a vote to repeal. The vote is a vote to pass or implement or enact.”

The city’s plan, then, is “the exact opposite of what is required.”

The matter is urgent, since a ballot printing deadline is Aug. 31, the petition explains. It asks the court to correct the wording.

It also asks for an accurate description of the ordinance. The city has called it the Houston Equal Right Ordinance but that text is not found in the original.

The coalition said, “If opponents of the suspended ordinance were to request the insertion of the “Child Predator Protection Act’ into the ballot language, the respondents would be strenuously opposed. … Politics and slanted language have no legitimate place on the ballot.”

A local broadcaster, KTRH, when the dispute arose, asked, “Is Mayor Annise Parker trying to pull a fast one on Houston voters?”

And the Family Research Council noted, “Jesus said, ‘Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.” Unfortunately, that’ll be a lot harder for Houston voters in the next election. Thanks to an administration that apparently sees people as a nuisance in their advance of an anti-religious freedom agenda, voters will have to pay extra close attention this November, when the Houston bathroom bill is finally on the ballot. Mayor Annise Parker is up to her old tricks – the most recent being her intentional manipulation of the ballot language.”

The commentary continued, “The city council isn’t fighting fair because it knows it can’t win fair. If opening up bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms to any gender were as popular as liberals argue it is, they wouldn’t have to deceive people! At least one member, C.O. Bradford, was outraged that the city was playing games on such a serious issue.”

WND reported only days ago when several of the pastors involved in the dispute sued the mayor.

“Each plaintiff brings this civil rights lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. [Paragraph] 1983 for defendant [Mayor Annise] Parker’s wrongful actions under color of state law depriving each of them of procedural and substantive due process under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as to vindicate their liberty interests under the Bill of Rights and Amendments to the United States Constitution,” the complaint, filed in Harris County District Court, says.

The fight is over a transgender ordinance Parker pushed through the city council more than a year ago. Some members of the Houston Area Pastor Council and other pastors formed an alliance to collect signatures to force the city either to overturn the ordinance or allow voters to have their say.

Although the city secretary certified enough signatures had been turned in, the mayor and city attorney manipulated the results to avoid allowing a popular vote.

Eventually the state Supreme Court stepped into the fight, during which time the city had subpoenaed the pastors’ sermons, and called a halt. The justices ordered the council to either repeal or put to a popular vote the ordinance.

“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 ruling said.

The court also suspended any enforcement of the ordinance.

Just what is going on in America? The details all are in “A Queer Thing Happened to America,” which explains how America of 40 years ago, when most knew little about homosexuality, arrived at the point that one can’t watch a sitcom without being indoctrinated with the “gay” lifestyle.

A major and unprecedented focal point of the conflict has been the city’s demands for the Christian ministers’ sermons.

“Now known as the ‘Houston 5,’ several of whom are plaintiffs herein, these Houston pastors valiantly fought the subpoenas by filing motions and briefing in the court from which the subpoenas had been issued,” the lawsuit explains. “Surprisingly, defendant Parker did not back down or apologize. Instead, she and her then-City Attorney, David Feldman, embraced what had transpired and strongly defended their unconstitutional subpoenas and illegal actions.

“For example, David Feldman said: ‘Some [petition] signatures were acquired at churches which make the sermons fair game.’ Feldman also said, ‘If they choose to do this inside the church, choose to do this from the pulpit, then they open the door to the questions being asked.’ The major did the same thing. On Twitter, defendant Parker echoed her city attorney’s defense of the subpoenas: ‘If the 5 pastors used pulpits for politics, their sermons are fair game.’

“Thus, by improperly issuing unconstitutional subpoenas, and by refusing to withdraw such subpoenas when given the opportunity and ratifying those wrongful actions instead, Defendant Parker violated the constitutional rights of the Houston 5, emanating from the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the complaint says.

The case drew national attention when WND broke the story that Parker had issued subpoenas to the five pastors for copies of their sermons and other communications. After the story was turbocharged by posting on the Drudge Report, the pastors called for an investigation of city hall’s actions.

A subsequent nationwide outpouring of criticism prompted officials to drop the subpoenas.

Rush Limbaugh at the time called the subpoenas “one of the most vile, filthy, blatant violations of the Constitution that I have seen.”

Opponents of the transgender ordinance had collected some 55,000 signatures for repeal. The city secretary stopped counting after she reached the required number for a recall of 17,269, plus a margin of error.

The city, however, claimed that only a few thousand were valid, based on rules they said needed to be applied even though they were not in the city charter, such as legibility issues.

The state Supreme Court said, “We agree with the relators that the city secretary certified their petition and thereby invoked the city council’s ministerial duty to reconsider and repeal the ordinance or submit it to popular vote. The city secretary unequivocally stated that ‘I am able to certify that … the number of signatures verified on the petition submitted on July 3, 201, is 17,846′ and that only 17,269 were required.”