HOUSTON, Texas–The issue of transgendered bathrooms and public dressing and shower facilities may spark an effort by some of the opponents of Houston Mayor Annise Parker to have her recalled. Mayor Parker is leading the charge to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) that, among other things, could open public bathrooms, shower and changing facilities to people based upon their gender identity. It also criminalizes ‘discriminatory actions’ by certain employers within the city limits of Houston.
The HERO ordinance movement has brought together a diverse base of opposition to the action being sought by Parker. On May 20, Breitbart Texas’s Lana Shadwick wrote about a group of Houston pastors and conservative activists joining forces at a “Stand for Our Women and Children Rally” held at Grace Community Church in Houston. “The Mayor was criticized,” Shadwick wrote, “for overstepping her power, reducing the power of City Council members, and trampling on First Amendment religious and free speech rights. The huge crowd cheered as pastors from Black, Hispanic, White, and Vietnamese churches walked to the front of the sanctuary down the center aisle.”
On May 22, KHOU 11’s veteran Houston reporter Doug Miller spoke to opponents of the HERO ordinance who are considering putting forward a recall petition against Mayor Parker or members of City Council who stand with her in support of the ordinance. Miller interviewed long-time anti-gay rights activist Dave Wilson about the recall idea.
“This is absurd, it’s unheard of,” said Wilson. “It’s nothing but pure payback for the mayor. She’s paying back her core constituents that supported her.”
Doug Miller’s article explains the Houston City Charter’s requirements for a recall. The charter prescribes that the mayor and council members may only be recalled for “incompetence, misconduct, malfeasance or unfitness for office.” That appeared to be enough for Dave Wilson who responded, “We consider them to be incompetent.”
One political observer told Breitbart Texas that the process could easily be dragged out for a longer period than the mayor and targeted council members might remain in office because of the ability to interpret the word “incompetent” in court. “If it hits a Republican judge in the courts it probably moves forward quickly, but if it lands before a Democrat judicial bench, it could drag out beyond Mayor Parker’s final term.”
The KHOU report claims a recall effort would have to gather the valid signatures of about 42,500 registered Houston voters within a 30-day window. A recall petition against a particular district council member could be done with as few as 2,500 signatures. The city charter requires the number of signatures to be 25% of the number of people who voted in that particular district or city-wide race.
Houston Area Pastors Council, Executive Director Dave Welch told Breitbart Texas, “We have been discussing every option for weeks and the immediate focus of our coalition in in this order:”
- Defeating the ordinance at city council
- Preparing and qualifying a referendum (language is already being drafted to file immediately if [ordinance] passed on 5/28)
- Targeting vulnerable members for recall and/or defeat”
Welch explained, “Recall petitions cannot be filed until about July 6 and also only have 30 days for signatures to be valid, so that drive can follow the referendum, if it in fact passes council.”
Houston political consultant Phil Owens is well seasoned in the process of gathering the signatures of Houston city voters having gathered enough signatures to force Mayor Parker to schedule a ballot initiative over the Red Light Camera issue. “The ability to gather signatures quickly and accurately is critical in this process,” Owens said in an interview with Breitbart Texas. “One of the most recent attempts to launch a recall took place in 2014 in San Antonio and oddly enough was over a very similar issue. In that case organizers failed to collect enough signatures.”
Owens explained there are two main issues that cause organizers to fail in the attempt to gather signatures quickly. Those issues are poor practices or that the general voting population does not agree with the recall effort.
“Better practices is easy to fix,” Owens stated. “We did it with Red Light Cameras and with the Anti-Feeding ordinance campaigns. Both times we collected enough signatures, but only once (red light cameras) did city officials attempt to count those signatures.”
“How to do it right,” Owens asked? “It takes professionals leading the effort that understand the long range goal is a policy change. There must be a plan, a strategy. That includes the collection of signatures as a step toward the eventual goal, not a standalone accomplishment.”
“It must also be considered that the City as whole does not agree with or understand the position of those seeking to recall the Mayor over the Equal Rights Ordinance,” Owens said. “It’s an admission we might not like to consider but in my opinion we lost some of the moral high ground by being inconsistent on the issue of Religious Liberties in this city.”
Owens was critical of some who are now opposing Parker on this issue, not because they are now standing against her, but because they failed to take action before. “There is an undeniable element of hypocrisy when the only time we are concerned with religious liberties,” Owens explained, “is when it involves an issue of ‘so called gay rights.’ The homeless and needy are also Gods children, had we fought harder for them then, we would have more allies helping us now.”
Owens repeatedly warned anyone that would listen years ago that the anti-feeding ordinance was a chance to stop Parkers gay rights agenda before it started. “She was politically vulnerable,” Owens said, “and it was an issue that directly related the Constitutional right to freedom of religion. It was a opportunity to define the debate, and it was lost because the political/religious leadership chose to ignore that opportunity”
Owens reminded those that fought the Mayor on the Anti-feeding ordinance, which he said was a much more direct assault on religious liberties by requiring Churches to get permits from the city if they wished to follow the Bibles teaching on helping the poor by feeding them, “We received ZERO help from many of these same pseudo religious /political organizations that are making the most noise now.”
“If a violation of religious liberties is wrong, it was wrong two years ago,” Owens concluded. “We cannot pick and choose which religious liberties we should fight to protect. When we cast aside the poor but want to fight against the “perversion incursion” we make it very easy for our political enemies to marginalize our position with the swing voter.” Owens reminded political leaders that a better time for this fight was during last year’s mayoral election where Parker won her third term.
The HERO ordinance is scheduled for a vote on Wednesday, May 28. It is expected to be a battle that may last well into the night.
Follow Bob Price on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX