A conservative Christian pastors’ group in Houston has once again sued Mayor Annise Parker over issues relating to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, a city law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
The Houston Area Pastors Council Monday sued Parker for legal fees and damages associated with an earlier suit, which had accused city officials of impeding the group’s efforts to put the equal rights ordinance to a popular vote, the Houston Chronicle reports.
The City Council passed the ordinance in May 2014, and shortly thereafter, opponents led by the pastors’ group circulated petitions seeking to put the measure before voters. They claimed to have the 17, 269 valid signatures necessary to put the ordinance on the ballot, but city officials said many signatures were forged. The petitioners filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s findings, but a judge ruled that they were 565 signatures short and the city was correct in its stance. The Texas Supreme Court recently overturned that decision, meaning the city must now either repeal the ordinance or allow voters to weigh in on it in November.
The new suit, filed in Harris County District Court, accuses Parker of interfering with citizens’ right to vote and also seeks damages associated with subpoenas the city issued to some local ministers in connection with the previous suit, the Chronicle reports. The city was seeking the content of sermons as it was building its defense in the suit, but the move brought much criticism, including allegations that the city was infringing on religious freedom. City officials eventually withdrew the subpoenas.
Parker “trampled the voting rights of over a million people in the fourth largest city in the United States of America,” Andy Taylor, an attorney for the pastors’ group, said at a press conference Monday, according to the Chronicle. “And so we’re here today to say ‘uh-uh,’ there’s going to be accountability for doing that. We are not going to sit idly by and let you do that.”
Parker had no immediate comment on the suit, the paper reports. She is an out lesbian, making Houston the largest city in the nation with an openly LGBT mayor.