US: Anti-trans Texans accused of electoral fraud in petition to overturn Equal Rights Ordinance
Anti-trans lobbyists in Houston, Texas have been accused of using illegal electoral methods in their attempts to overturn a recent pro-LGBT equality ordinance.
According to the TransAdvocate, signatures for a petition opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) have been collected from people who are not registered voters. This renders such signatures illegitimate.
HERO comprehensively bans most forms of discrimination in the city, but opposition from far-right groups has primarily been directed against a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
After the ordinance was passed by the County Council on May 28, opponents were given 30 days to create a petition large enough to put the issue to a referendum.
Last week, a reporter from the TransAdvocate recorded a man seated in a council office admitting to seeking signatures on his petition from people who were not yet registered to vote.
He gave his name as Victor Lawrence and is believed to be a representative of the Houston Area Pastor Council, which has opposed the ordinance and is now seeking a public vote on the issue. In a recent email calling on pastors to gather signatures, the Council described the ordinance as part of an “anti-family tide”.
Mr Lawrence told the reporter that he was collecting signatures for a petition against “an ordinance that allows men into women’s restrooms”.
He conceded that he was helping people to register with the intention that the registration process would have been completed by the time the petition could be checked.
Such a method is in breach of the Texas election code. A line at the top of the petition describing “the undersigned” as “qualified votes” further indicates that those who have signed the petition have themselves committed electoral fraud.
When pressed on his apparent transphobia, Mr Lawrence claimed he was only “concerned about… transgender people who have not had the surgery”, and said he considered “an equal system” to be one in which transgender people could only use restrooms with the express permission of those already inside.