Mayor responds to verdict on petition signatures on HERO

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- The jury in the trial on Houston's contentious Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) has spoken but what they said wasn't very clear cut.

Yesterday evening, the jury looked at the actions of the petitioners who went around collecting signatures, called circulators. They found zero instances of fraud, but found 12 out of 13 circulators did have forgeries on their petitions.

Petition supporters say in those cases, many were just people signing for a spouse or parent who could not sign themselves.

The jury also decided there were 6 out of 13 cases of non-accidental defect -- which means someone deliberately did something that hindered the legality of the signatures. The mayor spoke with Eyewitness News today, telling us she's hopeful that the judge will rule the petition is invalid.

"It's now in the hands of the judge. So while the jury agreed with the City of Houston that many of the petition pages were not properly submitted and that there were many instances of forgery on those pages, now it's going to be up the judge to wade through the petition," said Mayor Parker.

On the opposing side, those who created the petition are confident they'll get the 17,000 total signatures that they need to pass this petition. Those who oppose say part of the case hinges on controversy over the length of a shortened signature line in a petition form and whether the lack of signature there because circulators didn't know to sign there should count against them.

At the very least, they want to see the equal rights ordinance on the November ballot so voters themselves can decide whether they want it for the city.

"Now, not every voter would vote for us. Not every voter would vote our side. That's not even the point here. The point is we at least ought to have the right to vote on these kinds of issues," said voter Steve Riggle.

Next week, the judge will begin counting the signatures. If the judge finds the petition is invalid, those who oppose saying they do plan to appeal and take this to a higher court.

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