HOUSTON -

The debate over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance took center stage at City Hall Thursday and both sides are standing their ground.

A group of pastors and ministers opposing the ordinance arrived at City Hall Thursday and turned over more than 50,000 petition signatures to the City Secretary. They want the Houston City Council to repeal the law or get the issue on the ballot to let voters decide.

The group collected more than the 17,000 signatures that were needed.

Opponents say they object to part of the ordinance that would allow transgender women to use the women's bathroom. Mayor Annise Parker stresses there is no mention of the use of bathrooms in the ordinance. She and her supporters are mounting an effort to defend the ordinance.

The City Secretary has until August 4 to complete the validation process. The deadline for a city council vote to place the referendum on the ballot is August 18.