With Houston entering the last year of Mayor Annise Parker’s term, her legacy will surely be remembered as one besieged in controversy. As her equal rights ordinance will be challenged in court in just a few weeks, Parker is continuously looking for ways to silence her opponents.

This time, Parker has shown no regard for the Seventh Amendment by pushing back against critics and city council members who last year filed a petition requesting the HERO case go to a jury trial. The case, Woodfill v. Parker, has a start date of January 19th, but a state district judge will hold a hearing on Friday the 9th regarding the jury trial request.

In October of last year, Parker’s administration trampled on the First Amendment rights of Houstonians by issuing subpoenas to a number of Houston-area pastors. Parker demanded all communications pastors had with their congregations regarding HERO. After citywide backlash, national criticism, and hundreds of bibles sent to her office, her administration backed down and revoked their request.

The long legal battle began when HERO opponents organized and gathered more than enough signatures to repeal the ordinance, but City Attorney David Feldman later marked thousands of those signatures as ineligible, essentially killing the petition. Feldman has now handed in his resignation to take effect three days prior to the start date of case.

Houston City Council Members Kubosh, Pennington, and Bradford, who all voted in favor of the ordinance, are leading the push for the case to go to a jury trial. They argue that the people should never be removed from the process, especially when it comes to an ordinance as contentious as HERO. Parker and Feldman on the other hand say that filing a motion to prevent a jury trial in a case such as this is routine.

Houstonians never received the opportunity to vote on HERO, and Mayor Parker seems to think that the same voters who elected her can’t possibly make an informed decision on her signature ordinance.

Parker’s tenure has been one focused on advancing liberal social issues, her own personal agenda, and using her position to silence opponents standing in the way. The people of Houston were unjustly denied their right to decide on HERO on a ballot. A successful attempt by her administration to block them of their constitutional right to a trial by jury would be an even greater injustice.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.

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