Ballot wording for Houston gay rights ordinance rejected

Supporters of the non-discrimination ordinance, nick-named HERO, dressed in red and joined opponents in the gallery of Houston's city council

The Texas Supreme Court says voters in Houston must decide whether they want an equal right ordinance in their city - and not whether the existing one should be repealed.

The ruling Wednesday over ballot wording for a November referendum was another stumble for Mayor Annise Parker and efforts to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the nation's fourth-largest city.

Parker issued the following statement this afternoon:
    "Despite the continued backdoor legal maneuvers and manipulation by a small group that is out of touch, I am confident that Houstonians will vote to keep the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance in November. We are a city that believes everyone deserves to be treated equally no matter his or her race, age, gender, physical limitations, sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination simply isn't a Houston value.

    With all due respect to the Texas Supreme Court, it is clear that politics is driving the law in this case. We will rewrite the ballot language, but I strongly disagree with the decision and find it to be contrary to the court's established law regarding previous ballot initiatives."


The Houston City Council last year adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance. It aims to protect gay and transgender people against discrimination in employment and public places.

But the Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that conservative activists should have succeeded in a petition drive to put the issue before voters. The court now says the ballot language must ask voters whether Houston should have a nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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