A year and a half ago, the lesbian mayor of Houston pushed through the city council a transgender-rights ordinance that would allow men into women’s restrooms.
Pastors united in opposition, leading a campaign that collected enough signatures on a petition that, according to the city charter, would force the council either to repeal the ordinance or put it to a vote.
Now, after countless hours in courtrooms, several trips to the state Supreme Court, subpoenas by Mayor Annise Parker of pastor’s sermons and allegations of trickery, voters are getting their day.
Early voting is scheduled to begin Oct. 19 on whether Houston voters want to adopt the transgender ordinance.
They are being rallied by pastors and celebrities, including former Houston Astros player Lance Berkman, and nationally prominent organizations such as the Family Research Council are noting the momentous election.
“Months ago, Parker ruffled feathers by declaring to the city that ‘This is personal.’ Well, now it’s personal to everyone – including every Christian, mom, dad, and businessman in the city. And a vote for the ordinance is a vote against them. We join our Houston friends in urging a No vote on Proposition 1,” FRC noted in a new posting this week.
FRC President Tony Perkins said Parker “promised not to make homosexuality an issue in her administration.”
“Instead, she’s made it the issue – around which everything else revolves. As the leader of the fourth largest city in America, Parker jumped at the chance to use her power in support of her own personal LGBT agenda. An open lesbian, the mayor has tried to bypass the laws on marriage, declared Valentine’s Day ‘Freedom to Marry Day,’ and forced through the most radical piece of special rights legislation the city has ever seen.”
He continued: “Like other controversial sexual orientation-gender identity (SOGI) measures, Houston’s not only orders businesses to celebrate a radical definition of sexuality (or be punished), but allows men to use women’s showers and restrooms (and vice-versa) based on their ‘perceived’ gender. Now, after months of trying to sabotage the repeal process, strong-arm local churches and subpoena sermons, the mayor will have what she did everything to prevent: a city-wide vote. More than a year in the making, November 3rd’s ballot referendum will give the people the voice Parker abused her power to deny them.”
He noted pro-“gay” advocates are streaming money into the mayor’s campaign – “as much as $1.2 million for her misinformation campaign” – but he said even that might not be enough.
That’s because “pastors and local citizens … refuse to be steamrolled by the national forces of political correctness.”
“They understand, as we do, that this is about a lot more than even bathrooms. It’s about criminalizing religious liberty. Liberals would have new grounds to attack bakers, florists, planners, musicians and others who might decline a same-sex ceremony because of their beliefs. And as much as Mayor Parker would like to keep the lid on the serious fallout for freedom, Texans know all too well where Proposition 1 would lead.”
WND has reported on the ordinance since the beginning, including just weeks ago when the state Supreme Court slapped Parker down again.
The city council had tried to reverse the vote, so that it would be a vote to remove the ordinance, rather than a vote to approve.
But the state’s highest court ordered officials to follow the charter, which required the more straightforward approach of asking voters whether they wanted a change (yes) or not (no).
When Parker pushed the ordinance through the city council early in 2014, a coalition led by local pastors immediately collected more than 50,000 signatures on a petition. Under the city charter, the petition should have prompted an immediate repeal or a vote of the residents.
However, Parker and her city attorney fought back, arbitrarily disallowing so many signatures that the petition was disqualified.
The courts overruled Parker, however, and pastors in the coalition said they were pleased the city’s residents finally will vote on the ordinance.
Rev. Dave Welch, a spokesman for the pastors’ coalition, said: “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 continued: “We believe that this ordinance reflects only a personal agenda by Mayor Parker and ‘my people’ as she describes the LGBT community and not what is good, just, decent and best for Houston. However, we have been willing to put it before the people to decide and we will do all we can to make sure those who revere and respect our founding principles, God’s design of marriage and family and simply basic freedom get out and vote.”
A state lawmaker noted it was the fourth time that the city of Houston has been defeated regarding ballot language and its handling of petitions submitted by citizens.
Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said, “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 when the fight was before the court..
The case drew national attention when WND broke the story that Parker had issued subpoenas to five pastors for copies of their sermons and other communications. After the story spread further through 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.”
A local broadcaster, KTRH, when the dispute arose, asked, “Is Mayor Annise Parker trying to pull a fast one on Houston voters?”
The FRC noted back then: “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 also reported 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, said.
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 case, during which time the city had subpoenaed the pastors’ sermons. The justices ordered the council to either repeal the ordinance or put it to a popular vote.
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 pastors’ 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 mayor 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 said.