Legal jargon, heated accusations and random baseball metaphors aside, Friday's Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) hearing accomplished nothing. The law is suspended until its supporters and opponents duke it out at trial, set for January 2015.
HERO is Mayor Annise Parker's anti-discrimination law that gives legal protection to citizens who are maltreated because of their age, religion, race, gender and sexual orientation. Private businesses and government are subject to comply, but religious institutions are exempt.
Nevertheless, representatives of the religious right have banded together in an effort to repeal HERO ever since it became law in late May. Anti-HERO activists circulated a petition to put the ordinance on the November ballot for a referendum vote and gathered more than 50,000 signatures - well more than the 17,269 required for the measure. After review, the city found that only 15,249 were valid, trashing the petition.
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The fight continued to the courts on Friday as Judge Robert Schaffer listened to HERO and anti-HERO representatives bicker over whether the latter group's petition was legitimate. Anti-HERO attorney Andy Taylor maintained that petitioners hit the ball out of the park when they filed thousands of signatures in favor of LGBT discrimination. Geoffrey Harrison on the defense returned that the complainants struck out when the petition was found full of errors.`
Despite Schaffer's repeated calls to focus arguments on the purpose of the hearing - to determine whether petitioners are suffering immediate harm - Taylor and Harrison ultimately agreed to a January trial to determine the constitutionality of city codes requiring that those who collected signatures be registered voters.
Taylor said after the hearing that the nearly two-hour long event was a great success because biological males are still prohibited from entering women's bathrooms, where they can prey on girls - a head-scratching spin on the issue of gender-neutral toilets. Harrison promised to sue for attorney fees.