Pastors call City's move to federal court
The coalition who sponsored the referendum petition to repeal Houston Mayor Annise Parker's "Equal Rights Ordinance" is expressing their "great disgust" over City Attorney David Feldman's motion today that moved the issue to federal court. Coalition spokesman and plaintiff Max Miller called this a "distract, delay and disrupt" effort to simply run out the clock and keep the measure off the ballot.
The No UNequal Rights Coalition pastors sponsors of the referendum petition to repeal Mayor Annise Parker's "Equal Rights Ordinance" filed a lawsuit on August 5 including request for Temporary Restraining Order against the City of Houston City Secretary Anna Russell's report that declared an inadequate number of valid signatures were submitted. The TRO request was presented before visiting Judge John Costelli in the 334th Civil District Court and because Costelli did not act in a timely manner, the city had time to file its motion.
"The fact that Anna Russell only checked 19,177 signatures and in fact validated 17,846 for a validation rate of 93% is clear evidence of the quality of this citizen-led effort," declared Pastor Miller. "The fact that Mayor Parker's City Attorney David Feldman took over the process and began a wholesale dismantling of the basic rights of citizens to petition our government is unacceptable and, we believe the courts will affirm, completely outside the legitimate authority of his office. His deplorable delay tactic to now unnecessarily push this into federal court shows how desperate he and Parker are to keep this out of the people's hands," stated Pastor Miller.
The coalition's attorney Andy Taylor also pointed out that the City Charter places the validation authority only with the City Secretary, not the City Attorney and that Feldman wrongly acted as "judge, jury and executioner" regarding the petition sheets as well as using inappropriate standards. The TRO would be valid for fourteen days and during that time a Temporary Injunction hearing would be held to determine of there is reason to either overturn the city's report or make the injunction permanent while fact finding continues.
"As we have already said, we are disappointed in the complete lack of integrity by this administration but unfortunately not surprised that they went to this extent in their attempt to silence the voices of the people," Pastor Miller added. "Our attorneys are very confident that the courts will uphold the basic voting rights of the citizens in spite of a concerted effort by the Parker administration to deny us that right."
Because of the evident wrongdoing in the process of the report and that the citizens clearly met the charter requirements, the coalition is pressing for rapid resolution in order to meet the August 18 deadline for placing items on the November 2014 ballot. "Mayor Annise Parker said this was 'very personal' and 'about my life', with ten members of Houston City Council choosing to be instruments of her agenda rather than servants of the citizens of Houston. We will vigorously defend the people's right to vote in a timely manner on whether biological males should be allowed access to women's restrooms, whether having belief in traditional marriage should be criminalized, or that instead we will protect our freedom and the physical and emotional safety of our families," Pastor Miller concluded.