Friday, July 24, 2015

Five Things to Know About Today's Texas Supreme Court's Writ on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

1. This was not a court ruling.

The court did not hear arguments or issue a ruling. The court issued what's called a "writ of mandamus" which is an order to a governmental body to perform a function of government - in this case to the Houston City Council to either repeal the ordinance, or put it on the Nov. ballot.

2. The writ is not about the merits of HERO.

The court did not consider whether HERO was good policy, nor did it consider the negative effect it's repeal would have on the people of Houston or the city's international and business reputation. If someone tries to tell you the Supreme Court ruled against HERO, they are wrong.

3. The writ is not about the validity of the repeal petitions.

A state court has already found that many of the petitions calling for the repeal of HERO were forged and that still more were improperly filled out. SCOTX did not consider any of that in today's order - in fact, the order specifically states that they did not consider the validity of the petitions.

4. The writ hinges on a specific and narrow interpretation of a single word.

The city secretary, in her report to city council, stated that she could "certify" a certain number of signatures, but that - on consultation with the city attorney - not enough of the certified signatures were valid for the repeal petition to qualify. The Texas Supreme court has interpreted the Houston City Charter to say that, since the city secretary said that she could "certify" enough signatures for the repeal to qualify, city council must act by either repealing or putting HERO on the ballot. Despite the very same document saying that not enough of the "certified" signatures were valid to qualify.


There is still some legal wranglering to do by the legal wranglers, but the whos, whats and details of the SCOTX writ don't really matter any more. What matters is that HERO protects Houstonians from discrimination based on 15 different attributes and that those protections will be on the ballot in Nov. We have four months to defend the Houston values of fairness and opportunity from the people who want to take away those protections. The time is NOW to start having difficult conversations, to educate your friends, family and neighbors about the need for HERO and to register everyone to vote in the November election and make sure they get to the polls.

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