August 07, 2014

HERO Petition Case Sent Back To State Court, Ordinance Put On Hold

Of course, Mayor Parker had already agreed not to enforce the ordinance pending a court ruling on the petitions. Bot the ordinance is on hold pending a hearing next week now that a federal judge has sent the case back to the state courts..

Conservative activists seeking to repeal Houston's equal rights ordinance trumpeted a small victory Thursday when a court hearing resulted in the ordinance being suspended pending an Aug. 15 hearing.

Mayor Annise Parker, anticipating a lawsuit, already had said she would not enforce the ordinance until there was more legal clarity, but plaintiff and conservative activist Jared Woodfill said Thursday's result was important.

"I think it makes a big difference because now you have a court order saying you can't enforce it, even if you change your mind and you wanted to," Woodfill said. "It's not the law right now. "

Woodfill characterized the suspension as having been ordered by visiting State District Judge Jeff Shadwick, a suggestion which prompted a chuckle from City Attorney David Feldman. The order clearly states, Feldman said, that the city agreed - stipulated - that it would not enforce the ordinance.

"I knew this would happen," Feldman said. "This is not the judge ordering us, this is the city stipulating that it would not enforce, consistent with the mayor's public representation."

Opponents had sought an injunction to force the city to suspend the ordinance and to trigger the process of placing a repeal vote on the November ballot. Those items have been put off for the hearing.

Personally, I'm surprised that the federal court did not keep this one. After all, opponents of the ordinance did allege federal constitutional issues, and those should be resolved in the federal courts. Besides, the opponent's best hope of prevailing is for there to be a ruling that the city's requirement that petition circulators be registered voters who live in the city is unconstitutional, as I've noted in my earlier posts.

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