Voters in Houston on Tuesday rejected by about a 62 percent to 38 percent margin the outgoing lesbian mayor’s attempt to impose a transgender agenda on the city.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance would have banned discrimination against transgender people, allowing, for example, men who “perceive” themselves as women to use women’s restrooms, locker rooms and other gender-specific facilities in the city.
Anyone opposing or obstructing them could have been fined $5,000.
The vote with 273 of 910 precincts reporting was 102,884 against and only 63,513 for the ordinance.
Other jurisdictions have passed transgender-rights measures, but the Houston case was promoted by lesbian Mayor Annise Parker, who subpoenaed the sermons of local pastors who opposed the measure, highlighting the immorality of allowing men to shower with women.
WND broke the story that Parker had ordered five pastors to turn over copies of their sermons and other communications with their congregations. After the story spread further through the Drudge Report, the pastors called for an investigation of city hall’s actions.
A nationwide outpouring of criticism prompted city officials to drop the subpoenas. But the reputation of the city has already been tarnished, with talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh at the time called the subpoenas “one of the most vile, filthy, blatant violations of the Constitution that I have seen.”
The dispute began nearly two years ago when the mayor pushed through the city council a transgender-rights ordinance that banned discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender “perception.”
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.
The opposition to the transgender agenda was rallied by pastors and celebrities, including former Houston Astros baseball player Lance Berkman and nationally prominent organizations such as the Family Research Council.
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.”
WND has reported on the ordinance since the beginning, including last summer when the state Supreme Court slapped down Parker 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 city 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, 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 were finally able to vote on the ordinance.
Rev. Dave Welch, a spokesman for the pastors’ coalition, said the ordinance was a reflection of “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.”
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..
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 trying to avoid allowing a popular vote.
A major and unprecedented focal point of the conflict had 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.