Judge rules for city in Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance trial

HOUSTON - A judge Friday reached a decision in the trial over Houston's controversial Equal Rights Ordinance, siding with the city that opponents did not have enough valid signatures to repeal the ordinance.

City council members passed the ordinance last May. Opponents don't agree with the protections it offers to gay and transgender residents. Last summer, a group of opponents turned into the city a petition that would force a repeal referendum of the ordinance.

At issue was whether or not the petition signatures against the ordinance were valid.

A spokesperson with Mayor Annise Parker's Office told KPRC 2 News that the judge Friday sided with the city.

The trial focused on whether the former city attorney legally invalidated thousands of signatures on the petition. Andy Taylor, the attorney representing the group of opponents who created the petition, said no, while the city's legal team said yes.

The plaintiffs claim they had 31,000 verified signatures. But the city said there were only 5,000.

A little more than 17,000 were needed to force a referendum to repeal the measure. The judge Friday found there were only 16,684 valid signatures.

"(As) a matter of fact and as a matter of law the Referendum Petition is not valid or enforceable in all respects," the judge ruled.

"I would hope that the plaintiffs would not appeal, they lost during a jury trial and today they also lost with the judge's ruling. Now all Houstonians have access to the same protections," said Parker.

Houston City Attorney Donna Edmundson said, "This is a great victory in the courts, and a great day for civil rights in Houston, Texas. The jury found for the City, and now the judge has found in favor of the City too. I am gratified that the judge signed a final judgment rejecting the plaintiffs' claims and confirming that their pro-discrimination referendum petition failed. We will be prepared if the plaintiffs decide to appeal."

Copyright 2015 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.