US: Houston church groups submit signatures to trigger referendum on equality law

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Houston church groups have submitted signatures to block a planned LGBT equality law, potentially sending to to a public vote.

Houston, the largest city in Texas, passed its long-discussed non-discrimination ordinance in May, with a vote of 11 in support to 6 against.

The law – submitted by openly gay Houston mayor Annise Parker – would protect LGBT employees from discrimination, as Texas has no statewide equality laws.

However, faith-based groups who oppose equality have now submitted boxes of over 50,000 signatures opposed to the ordinance, which is more than double the 17,269 required to force a public ballot on the matter.

The tactics of campaigners gathering signatures have been strongly criticized, with church groups claiming it would allow ‘men dressed as women’ to attack people in bathrooms.

Parker said: “This was not a narrowly-focused, special-interest ordinance.

“This is something that the business and civic community of Houston was firmly behind, and we fully expect if there is a campaign that it will be a spirited campaign, but we’ll have the same outcome in November as we had around the council table.

“Houston does not discriminate, Houston will not discriminate and Houston will not be fooled by misinformation, hyperbole – I would use the word ‘lies’ but I’m going to back off from that – and people who are just simply unwilling to read the ordinance for themselves.”

Reverend Max Miller, of the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity said: “It has been shown and demonstrated that the people of the city do not want this ordinance. We simply say: Allow the people to vote on this ordinance.”

The City Secretary’s office will verify within 30 days that enough valid signatures have been collected, before the law is placed on a public ballot in November.

The TransAdvocate recentlyaccused campaigners of committing electoral fraud, by collecting signatures of people who are not yet registered to vote.