US: Anti-gay activists forged signatures on petition to repeal Houston equal rights law

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A petition to trigger the repeal of an equal rights law in Houston, Texas contained fraudulent signatures, a jury has ruled.

Last July, anti-equality activists submitted boxes of around 31,000 signatures to block a planned LGBT equality law in the city – above the threshold of 17,269 required to send it to a public vote.

However, legal action was sparked over allegations that a lot of the signatures were fake – after Houston City Attorney Dave Feldman announced that so many were invalid that the petition was well below the threshold.

After a long legal process, and nearly a week deliberating, the jury in the case has delivered a mixed verdict – finding that 12 of the petition’s circulators submitted sheets that contained forgery and other flaws.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker said: “I am very pleased with the jury’s verdict, and I expect the court will apply the law to the verdict and issue a final judgment confirming that the petition failed.

“The City of Houston has had in place for over 100 years the same rules and legal requirements governing the referendum process to ensure fairness and avoid fraud, and the jury’s verdict confirms that the petitions did not meet the legal requirements.

“The plaintiffs are expected to appeal any outcome that is not in their favour. That would be unfortunate for the City.

“I believe that the majority of Houston wants this divisive fight to be over so that we are able to provide equal rights protections for all of our residents. The City is confident it will prevail.”

No matter the final ruling in the case, it is likely to be taken to an appellate court.