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Texas Supreme Court to Houston: Repeal Equal Rights Ordinance or Place on November Ballot

AUSTIN, Texas—The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a nondiscrimination ordinance for the gay and transgender communities must be repealed or put to referendum in a public vote by the Houston city council.

HERO, otherwise known as Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, passed in May of 2014 after an 11-6 vote by the city council. The measure passed under the leadership of Houston’s first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, and proved to be a controversial issue for conservatives and liberals alike, as previously noted by Breitbart Texas’ Lana Shadwick.

In that article Shadwick quoted Dr. Steve Hotze, a Texas Republican political kingmaker, author, and owner of a successful health and wellness center. Hotze expressed concerned that the ordinance would “open the door for quotas in hiring, in city contracts and affirmative action requirements.”

Moreover, he says that, “according to Parker’s proposed ordinance if you refused to hire, do business with, or refuse access to female restrooms for transvestites, then you would be prosecuted as a criminal.”  He and others believe that business owners should not be forced by law to accept behavior that they consider immoral.

HERO extended rights to Houston’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population to ensure nondiscrimination and equal opportunity in employment, contracting, and housing.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the city council has the “ministerial duty to immediately reconsider the ordinance” and a referendum that highlights opposition to the measure must be taken into account.

Dave Martin was one of the six Houston city council members in opposition of HERO, and upon the court’s decision, issued the following statement:

Since first being introduced last year, I have voiced my opposition to the HERO ordinance driven by the mayor. I, along with five other of my council colleagues, voted against it and steadfastly believe it is a decision that belongs to the people and that the legislative power of the citizens of Houston needs to be upheld.

On Friday afternoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released his own statement on the Supreme Court ruling:

Freedom of expression can only exist once government removes itself from stifling free speech, repressing religious liberty and interfering with the lives of its citizens. Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court appropriately returns jurisdiction over this matter to voters while reassuring the people of Houston that their personal values remain beyond the reach of government.

The Houston city council has until August 24 to repeal the ordinance. If no repeal has been made by then, the public will head to the ballot boxes in November to cast their vote.

This article has been updated with additional information.

Follow Cassi Pollock on Twitter @cassi_pollock

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