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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Opinion

No rational reason for HERO to be repealed


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In response to the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling, Houston City Council has put the HERO initiative on the November 2015 ballot. | File photo/The Cougar

The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, passed by the Houston City Council back in May of last year, is a bill that offers comprehensive protections against discrimination for 15 protected classes and ensures equal access to housing, employment and public accommodations.

In a city as diverse as Houston, any ordinance discouraging discrimination is necessary to mitigate violent confrontations.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that HERO must be repealed or put on the November 2015 election ballot.

The decision follows a series of legal battles that began when the No Unequal Rights Coalition signed and circulated a petition to repeal the ordinance. By law, the petition needed to obtain 17,269 signatures for the city to be required to reconsider HERO.

The No Unequal Rights Coalition is a small group of radical conservatives who formed to oppose HERO and believes that transgender people pose an inherent risk to women and children.

This belief has no basis in reality. Zero data exists that supports this myth of the transgender bathroom predator.

The No Unequal Rights Coalition believes it is “protecting” Houstonians from HERO, but Houstonians who would be protected by HERO feel differently.

“My heart sunk when I found out about it. I felt powerless and threatened by the behaviors of people and politicians who professed a devotion for Jesus and who are using his name to spread lies about the transgender community,” said women’s studies junior Jaime Bockmon who is a transgender student.

City Secretary Anna Russell in August of last year reported that “17,846 signatures appearing on the petition contained correct information,” so the City of Houston didn’t repeal or put HERO up for popular vote.

The No Unequal Rights Coalition then sued the City of Houston for to compel city officials to perform their duty to repeal or submit HERO to a popular vote.

Except the validity of signatures is steeped in controversy. Although the City Secretary certified The HERO referendum petition, the City Attorney conducted an investigation of the petition and determined that several of the petition’s pages had not been correctly signed and verified and thus were invalid.

Last year, forensic document examiner Janet  Masson at the request of the City Secretary conducted a forensic analysis of the petition and found that over 50% of the signatures were unreadable and had numerous signs of forgery and duplicated pages and needed further review.

Then in February of this year, a jury answered six questions regarding the petition, reaching findings that greatly contest the validity and legality of signatures claimed. The jury determined that the pages of the petition submitted by 12 out of 13 circulators contained forgery.

The jury also found that the pages submitted by 10 out 16 circulators contained non-accidental defects, and that the circulators affidavit oaths of 12 out of 13 petition circulators were not true and correct.

Last April, State District Judge Robert Schaffer adjudged that the HERO Referendum Petition failed to acquire the required number of signatures with the final tally of valid signatures being 16,684.

In the face of the Supreme Court’s ruling which fully disregards the finding of nearly a years’ worth of forensic analysis and legal proceeding, you cannot help but wonder why HERO faces such relentless opposition.

The fear that animates the No Unequal Rights Coalition and the like must run deeply, such that they would resort to what appears to be blatant forgery.

It is certain that the No Unequal Right Coalition will translate their furor to the November election, and it’s scary to think what a low voter turnout will entail.

We must use our political power to build the world we seek.

Opinion columnist Nicholas Tripp is a psychology junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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