A district court judge in Texas did not approve the Houston Mayor’s motion to waive a jury trial regarding a voter referendum for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO. Judge Robert Schaffer ruled against Mayor Annise Parker’s motion to avoid a jury trial for whether HERO would be enacted.
The particular bill, also called the bathroom bill, states that transgender individuals are allowed to use whichever gender restroom they deem appropriate; the bill was passed in May. Opponents of the bill filed a lawsuit after a petition for voter referendum was not recognized; they believe that the citizens of Houston should decide whether the bill should pass or not. Mayor Parker attempted to decide the finality of the bill without a jury trial.
Parker filed several motions this past month in order to combat, or avoid, a jury trial to discuss the fate of HERO. The Christian Post reports that the first motion was for the judge to dismiss the case. The second was to replace the jury with a bench trial, which would not allow citizens to have a direct influence in the bill decision. The most recent motion was to appoint a “special master” to decide the case, which would not involve a judge or a jury.
“She is supposed to represent the people. And yet, she has, in this case, done everything in her power to block and mute the people from any involvement in this ill conceived bathroom ordinance,” Andy Taylor, attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Christian Post in regards to Mayor Parker.
The trial that Mayor Parker tried to waive was between the City of Houston and those opposed to the bill. Several pastors began a petition against the HERO bill. The petition contained more signatures than needed to enact a voting process to decide the enactment of the bill. Despite meeting the requirements, the voter referendum was ignored by the City of Houston; it did not show up on the voting ballot in November.
Mayor Annise Parker is the first openly gay mayor of any major city in the United States. A few months ago, Mayor Parker subpoenaed five of the pastors involved with the petitions for their sermons. The pastors were asked to hand over all their sermons related to homosexuality and gender identity. Media sources as well as activist groups around the country criticized her actions towards the pastors in reference to the bill. Parker withdrew the subpoenas after she came under fire for an alleged violation of free speech.