HOUSTON — Houston must repeal a newly adopted equal rights ordinance or let voters decide if they want to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Texas Supreme Court ordered Friday.
The ruling was not about the merits of the ordinance, which is similar to what other big Texas cities have adopted, and aims to protect gay and transgender people against discrimination in employment and public places.
The all-Republican court instead decided that conservative activists should have succeeded in a petition drive to put the issue on a ballot.
“The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored,” the court wrote.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who is gay, helped push for the ordinance passed by the City Council last year. Opponents have fought the measure ever since, and say they got the roughly 18,000 signatures required to force a voter referendum.
But council members said too many signatures were invalid, even though the city secretary certified the petition. A lawsuit was filed by the former chairman of the Harris County Republican Party, and justices on Texas’ highest civil court ruled that the petition should have held up.
The court ordered the city to repeal the ordinance by Aug. 24 or put the ordnance on the November ballot for voters.
The city did not immediately respond to the ruling.
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