The Texas Supreme Court dealt Houston’s contentious LGBT ordinance a major blow Friday.
The court ruled that the city of Houston must repeal or allow a vote on the Equal Rights Ordinance, an ordinance that qualified for the ballot but was kept off by Houston’s mayor, who sparked outrage when she tried to subpoena sermons and communications of local pastors.
The Equal Rights Ordinance banned businesses that serve the public from discriminating against gay or transgender people.
Conservative activists say that the ordinances can be used to allow men who identify as women to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms, and vice versa for women who identify as men.
After the ordinance was passed in May of 2014, conservative activists fought to get a repeal vote on the issue, but the mayor and other city officials refused to allow the repeal vote, saying the activists did not obtain enough signatures.
The court disagreed, and told the city to either repeal the measure or allow the city to vote on the repeal. Houston has until Aug. 24 to decide.
“The legislative power reserved to the people of Houston is not being honored,” reads the court’s opinion.
It’s important to note that the court did not rule against anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBT people in general, only that the city was obligated to allow the measure to be put up for a vote or repealed outright.
Several large Texas cities, including Dallas and Austin, have some form of anti-discrimination protection in place for LGBT people.
Now that gay rights activists have won the marriage battle with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, they have largely turned their attention to the discrimination fights, which vary depending on laws across the country.
The city’s dispute drew national attention when news broke that Houston’s lesbian mayor, Annise Parker, subpoenaed sermons from local pastors in relation to the fight. She later withdrew the subpoenas.
“Public officials should not be allowed to run roughshod over the right of the people to decide these types of issues, especially when the citizens of Houston clearly met all the qualifications for having their voice heard,” Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley said in a statement. “The subpoenas we successfully fought were only one element of this disgraceful abuse of power. The scandal began when the city arbitrarily threw out the valid signatures of thousands of voters. The city did this all because it was bent on pushing through its deeply unpopular ordinance at any cost. The Texas Supreme Court has rightly rectified this wrong.”
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