On Tuesday, voters had a chance to decide the fate of numerous state and local candidate and issue campaigns. Among the most prominent was the resounding defeat of the “Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.” This city law, championed by Houston Mayor Annise Parker, established sexual orientation and gender identity as special protected classes. It rose to national attention last autumn when city officials, apparently concerned with a grassroots movement to challenge the ordinance, chose to use subpoena power to compel five pastors to turn over “[a]ll speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.” If the pastors refused, they could have potentially faced fines or imprisonment. After an uproar by advocates of First Amendment freedoms, including NRB, the City retreated from the subpoenas but still resisted efforts to allow voters to have a direct say over the ordinance. Finally, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the law must be repealed or placed on the ballot for a referendum. Given the opportunity, voters this week decisively threw out the ordinance by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: November 6, 2015