NDO petition fight heads to Texas Supreme Court

The Houston Chronicle reports that opponents of the local non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Houston City Council have taken their case to the Texas Supreme Court. Specifically, they are seeking an emergency order to force the issue onto this November’s ballot, following a contentious referendum petition effort.

As I recently explained, a controversy has erupted over the NDO –which codifies existing Federal and State anti-discrimination statutes (protecting against race, sex and religion, for example) onto local law, as well as extends new protections for LGBT individuals– following an effort to override the City Council, which approved the ordinance 11-6 last May. Under city law, such an ordinance could be placed upon the ballot for a referendum if enough signatures are gathered within 30 days. Opponents claimed they acquired more than enough signatures, but most of them were disqualified, either for not being properly registered to vote or not living within the city limits of Houston. City Secretary Anna Russell originally determined the signatures to pass the threshold, just barely, but a subsequent independent investigation by City Attorney David Feldman reversed this ruling. Feldman specifically challenged the validity of any signatures on a petition page circulated by an improperly registered circulator.

This is the crux of a legal argument made against the initial decision by Feldman and Mayor Annise Parker to not humor a referendum on this topic. Originally, the opponents filed in State District Court, and received a temporary restraining order by ancillary Judge Jeff Shadwick (R-55th). However, this order was lifted when the case went to the court of Judge Robert Schaffer (D-152nd), and mandamus was denied by the Court of Appeals. As I had understood the mutually agreed upon result to be, a longer hearing would be held on the matter in January 2015, and the issue would not be on the ballot this year. City officials have even stated that the full deadline to place things on a November ballot is August 18th, which is now in the past.

Evidently, plaintiff Jared Woodfill did not get the memorandum. He is seeking, as expedited as possible, mandamus from the Texas Supreme Court, ordering the City to certify Russell’s –and not Feldman’s or Parker’s– petition decision, thus placing this matter on a ballot. Woodfill, a former Chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, evidently is not sold by the whole “deadline to place on the ballot” idea. Go figure.

Those sagacious followers of this publication I always reference will indubitably know I am skeptical of the life of the NDO if it is ever put up on a referendum. Young people and other socially liberal cohorts just don’t get off their butts on go to a voting booth. They’re just lazy, come election day; there’s no way around it. Opponents of this ordinance, though, and other broadly Tea Party aligned groups, would figuratively walk over hot coals in order to vote.

I had thought, however, that the best chances the NDO would have would be if the referendum were held this November, as opposed to next November or next May. However, its chances would be based on an aggressive and effective campaign to save the NDO. Given that it’s nearly Labor Day and such a campaign is not existent, those bets would surely be off.

All in all, my main point is that this is a mess, and while the Texas Supreme Court may be unpredictable, there is nothing to say the partisan nature of the court should lead it to intervene. The two Courts of Appeals in the Houston area are, sans one Democrat, completely filled with Republicans, and they pointedly denied mandamus. Thus, there is no reason necessarily to think that anything rash will occur. But I’ve been wrong before.

6 thoughts on “NDO petition fight heads to Texas Supreme Court

  1. Pingback: HERO repealers try their luck with the Supreme Court – Off the Kuff

  2. Pingback: HERO repealers try their luck with the Supreme Court - Kerala Lawyer

  3. No good reason for mandamus here — Woodfill and company are asking for the court to give them everything they demand now and then decide if they are entitled to anything later. That is a non-starter for me (hardly a fan of the ordinance) because it then creates the situation where the voters have cast a vote repealing the ordinance only to have that vote thrown out by the judiciary should it be determined that the repeal measure never should have been on the ballot in the first place.

  4. Pingback: HERO Opponents Try "Hail Mary" Play On Ordinance Repeal - Citizens News

  5. Thanks for this informative post; however, I disagree that the law “extends new protections for LGBT individuals.” My friends that identify as gay do not need this law to go to their chosen WC’s. They are male and go to the “guy’s bathroom.” The only people our of the LGBT community that benefit from this are the “T’s.”

    Sorry for nit-picking on the less important points of this article; however, I am hoping to get feedback in this comment stream as to why this was pushed through by the Mayor. Is it a symbolic victory for the LGBT community? Is the mayor trying to slap down the Black Church? Is business so robust inside of Houston that the ranks need to be thinned?

    Insofar as two of the pingbacks to this article are from legal blogs, will you legal bloggers refuse to sue or prosecute any transgendered individual for altercations happening in or near restrooms?

    • (First paragraph, last sentence should read as follows) The only people out of of the LGBT community that benefit from this are the “T’s.”

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