Texas is not the place to trample on freedom of expression, speech and religious liberties. Thursday, the State’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled that requires the Houston City Council’s agenda driven ordinance known at HERO to withdraw the mandate by August 24, 2015. If the ordinance is not repealed by then, it will go on the November 2015 general elections ballots for voters to decide.
“Freedom of expression can only exist once government removes itself from stifling free speech, repressing religious liberty and interfering with the lives of its citizens,” Governor Greg Abbott stated shortly after the ruling. “Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court appropriately returns jurisdiction over this matter to voters while reassuring the people of Houston that their personal values remain beyond the reach of government.”
HERO, or Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, was passed by their City Council on May 28, 2014 by a vote of 11 to 6. Mayor Annise Parker drew substantial criticism and nationwide controversy when she and other council members subpoenaed five Houston area pastors demanding their sermons to obtain information on what the pastors were preaching to their congregations.
Mayor Parker was disturbed about a petition started by religious leaders opposing HERO. They collected 50,000 signatures against the regulation when only 17, 269 were required. The validity and legality of the petition signatures were questioned by Parker and her followers. Eventually, she backed off and reneged on the subpoenas and opted to wait to implement HERO until after the courts ruled.
Many Houston area parents, citizens, churches and pastors were particularly concerned about language in the ordinance, they dubbed “The Bathroom Bill,” dealing with the right of transgender citizens to choose which gender restroom they prefer.
The Texas Supreme Court, in their ruling stated “The City Council is directed to comply with its duties as specified in the City Charter, that arise when the City Secretary certifies that a referendum petition has a sufficient number of valid signatures. Any enforcement of the ordinance shall be suspended, and the city council shall reconsider the ordinance. If the city council does not repeal the ordinance by August 24, 2015, then by that date the city council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election.”
“I’m pleased the Texas Supreme Court unanimously threw out this agenda-driven ordinance in Houston,” Attorney General Ken Paxton stated Thursday. “Today’s ruling is a victory for Houston pastors and the people of Houston, who will now have their voices heard. The fundamental rights of free speech and religious liberty must be protected, and this ruling is an important step in safeguarding these rights for Texans.”