Two weeks ago Houston Mayor Annise Parker was denied her motion that the trial be decided by a judge. Jury selection begins today:
A jury will be tasked with parsing thousands of pages of signatures during a trial that may last as long as two months. The case boils down to this: Did former City Attorney David Feldman rightly disqualify thousands of petition pages that conservative opponents submitted in an attempt to force a repeal referendum? It’s not a trial over the merits of the ordinance, which City Council passed last May, banning discrimination. The law applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions are exempt. Critics largely take issue with the protections the law extends to gay and transgender residents. In August, they sued the city after their petition to send the ordinance to voters failed. The case will touch on other questions, too, including the city’s allegations that those gathering signatures knowingly committed fraud and forgery.
The case has become Cause #1 for anti-gay religious and hate groups, who have won several recent battle to repeal local LGBT rights ordinances. LGBT anti-discrimination protections already exist in multiple major Texas cities including Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, El Paso, and San Antonio.