Lone Star Supremes Stand Up for the People
Good news from the Texas Supreme Court today. As you may recall, Houston Mayor, Annise Parker, and the Houston City Council passed a controversial pro-LGBT ordinance in late May 2014. Among other things, the law, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — dubbed "HERO" — allowed transgendered persons to sue businesses that prohibited their use of *their* preferred bathroom. There was overwhelming opposition to the law in Houston and that triggered an effort by the citizens to repeal HERO by referendum. The repeal campaign was led primarily by a group of Houston pastors and churches who collected twice the number of signatures required to get the repeal option on the ballot. According to the city secretary, Anna Russell, the petitioners collected a sufficient number of signatures. However, the Mayor and the City Attorney, David Feldman, defiantly refused to recognize that a sufficient number of signatures had been collected.
Good news from the Texas Supreme Court today. As you may recall, Houston Mayor, Annise Parker, and the Houston City Council passed a controversial pro-LGBT ordinance in late May 2014. Among other things, the law, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — dubbed “HERO” — allowed transgendered persons to sue businesses that prohibited their use of their preferred bathroom. There was overwhelming opposition to the law in Houston and that triggered an effort by the citizens to repeal HERO by referendum.
The repeal campaign was led primarily by a group of Houston pastors and churches who collected twice the number of signatures required to get the repeal option on the ballot. According to the city secretary, Anna Russell, the petitioners collected a sufficient number of signatures. However, the Mayor and the City Attorney, David Feldman, defiantly refused to recognize that a sufficient number of signatures had been collected.
This decision led to the pastors and churches suing the City. Along the way, the city administration issued subpoenas in mid-October 2014 to the five Houston pastors who delivered the petitions. The First Amendment-crushing subpoenas instructed the pastors to provide documents in their possession — including sermons, emails, instant messages, text messages and other materials — that related to HERO. A national firestorm ensued. In fact, on November 2, 2014, Family Research Council led an effort along with sponsoring organizations and other partners to support the pastors and those seeking repeal by holding a national simulcast from Grace Community Church in Houston. The “I Stand Sunday” event drew over 7,000 attendees and was joined by hundreds of thousands via the internet.
The City rescinded the subpoenas in late October, but the litigation continued. Amazingly, three months ago a Texas district court judge ruled that the petitioners had failed to gather enough valid signatures to get the repeal measure on the ballot. Things looked bleak.
Well, [Friday], the Texas Supreme Court overturned that decision. The Court concluded that the City Secretary had certified the petition and that brought the “City Council’s ministerial duty” to go through the repeal process into effect. The Court held that the Houston City Council must stop enforcement of HERO and reconsider the ordinance. If it does not repeal HERO 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.”
This is a tremendous victory for the rule of law in Houston. That said, this onerous anti-HERO of an ordinance is still on the books. The Mayor and city government had acted dishonorably to thwart the will of the people when they disallowed petition signatures, but, more dangerously, the subpoenas issued to the pastors were meant to intimidate political opposition and free speech.
Fortunately, Texas has a state supreme court with sufficient honesty and integrity to call a halt to this political thuggery. Many states, however, do not. In the meantime, the people of Houston need to mobilize for the repeal vote that lies ahead. But for today, this is a vivid reminder of Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”
Planned Parenthood’s Allies’ Investigative Retort
You would think that politicians who repeatedly say they are most concerned about women’s health would be at the forefront of calling for investigations of Planned Parenthood. In the recent videos, we heard PPFA leaders describe changing abortion procedures in order to harvest intact baby organs, which makes this gruesome procedure even more difficult and painful for the mother. Women are required to sign consent forms saying, “I understand there will be no changes to how or when my abortion is done in order to get my blood or the tissue.” But the videos show top PPFA officials having no qualms about deceiving the women, allowing them to sign the consent forms, and then directing the surgeons to change how the abortion is done.
Instead of being appalled at the treatment of women and the lack of respect of their right to know, we are now hearing liberal politicians calling for investigations – not of Planned Parenthood – but of the producers of the videos! Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, “I think it is unfortunate that Planned Parenthood has been the object of such a concerted attack for so many years.” We think it is unfortunate that babies have been the object of such a concerted attack by Planned Parenthood for so many years, with an eye on the bottom line and with no regard for mothers. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, “Let’s have an investigation of those people who were trying to ensnare Planned Parenthood in a controversy that doesn’t exist.” Doesn’t exist? This controversy does exist, and everyone who cares about the lives of women and babies should feel a sense of urgency in getting to the bottom of this. Ford, Xerox, Coca-Cola, the March of Dimes, and other corporations are urgently scrambling to distance themselves from the controversy that Ms. Pelosi says doesn’t exist.
In a EWTN News interview [last] week, FRC’s Ken Blackwell remarked, “The only reason that folks can turn abortion into a profitable business is because they have dehumanized us and they’ve made us callous to the human dimension of life in the woman’s womb.” In the middle of the mudslinging and blame games, let’s not forget that these are real children and real women we are talking about.
Given the gravity of the issue and the weight of the evidence, most Americans agree that tax money should not continue to flow to Planned Parenthood as the government investigates the alleged criminal wrong doing. Congress should immediately impose a one year moratorium of federal funding while investigations are ongoing. Speaker Boehner is supportive of the Congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood, but has indicated he will not cut off funds to the abortion giant. We need you to call on him to bring Rep. Diane Black’s (R-Tenn.) bill to a vote in the House next week before the August recess. Contact your Representative to urge a vote on H.R. 3134 [this] week!
Religious Liberty: Christian Schools and Colleges at Risk — and What You Can Do
Are Christian schools, colleges, and universities at risk from the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage? If they stand faithfully for the biblical view on marriage and human sexuality in their codes of student conduct, hiring decisions, facility use, or other practices, will they lose accreditation, tax exempt status, or federal aid to their students?
These and other critical questions were addressed [Thursday] in a nationwide webcast held here at FRC titled, “The Court and the Classroom: How the Supreme Court’s Redefinition of Marriage Affects Religious Schools.” Click here to watch.
This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.