The mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, has announced that city attorneys will withdraw subpoenas of sermons from pastors.
In May, Houston’s city council passed an ordinance which banned discrimination based on race, sex and religion, in addition to increasing protection for those who identify as gay or transgender.
Many religious conservatives led the backlash against the ordinance, which led to the subpoena. Several civil liberties groups, including those who are in favor of protecting those who identify as gay or transgender, have decried the legal action as a violation of religious freedom.
“I didn’t [rescind the subpoenas] to satisfy [critics],“ Parker said. "I did it because it was not serving Houston.”
The ordinance is intended to protect people from discrimination in housing and employment, in addition to services provided by private businesses- which does not include religious institutions. Predictably, there was an effort to annul the ordinance.
"It is extremely important to me to protect our Equal Rights Ordinance from repeal, and it is extremely important to me to make sure that every Houstonian knows that their lives are valid and protected and acknowledged," Parker said. "We are going to continue to vigorously defend our ordinance against repeal efforts."
City officials stated that there weren’t enough signatures in order to put a repeal on the ballot. The subpoenas, which included speeches and presentations in addition to sermons, were all related to the petition. It was initially believed the petition had enough signatures to put it on the ballot, but city attorney David Feldman found more than half of the petition was invalid.
Though sermons are no longer under legal consideration, speeches and presentations are still being subpoenaed by the city’s attorneys.
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