In a move that surprised no one, an injunction was placed on the city's recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) Thursday until a hearing on August 15 to determine the validity of signatures opponents gathered to force a vote on the controversial issue in November. Opponents gathered what they believed to be some 50,000 signatures that would place the measure on the November ballot, but city attorneys claim the number of actual valid signatures on the petition were 2,000 short of the number required.
According to a report on Chron.com, conservative activist Jared Woodfill seemed pleased while City Attorney David Feldman seemed unfazed.
"I think it makes a big difference because now you have a court order saying you can't enforce it, even if you change your mind and you wanted to," Woodfill said. "It's not the law right now. "
Woodfill characterized the suspension as having been ordered by visiting State District Judge Jeff Shadwick, a suggestion which prompted a chuckle from City Attorney David Feldman. The order clearly states, Feldman said, that the city agreed - stipulated - that it would not enforce the ordinance.
"I knew this would happen," Feldman said. "This is not the judge ordering us, this is the city stipulating that it would not enforce, consistent with the mayor's public representation."
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The Equal Rights Houston Campaign responded in a statement:
It is unfortunate that the opponents of equal rights have taken this issue to the courts after first losing at City Council and now failing to follow the simple rules of our City Charter that guard against fraud and ensure a fair referendum process. The rules are in the City of Houston's Charter for a purpose: to protect the integrity of the process and prevent fraud. Equal Rights Houston is confident the court will uphold the City of Houston's decision that the repeal signatures were not collected in the clearly defined process. The bottom line is that this state court decision is still just a TRO, and not a final ruling on the merits.
It appears, at some point or another, this is heading for, at the very least, a court battle. Mayor Annise Parker had said she expected this, which is why she didn't enact the ordinance prior to Thursday. If opponents are able to force a referendum on the ordinance, it would certainly make for an interesting political fight, depending of course on how well funded opponents are.
Either way, it doesn't appear HERO will be put in place for a while. Stay tuned.