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US: Attempt to stall Houston equality law may fail over ‘fraudulent’ signatures on petitions

Nick Duffy August 3, 2014

An attempt by church groups to trigger a ballot on Houston’s equality law may be thrown out, after a large number of signatures on their petitions were declared invalid.

The anti-equality activists last month submitted boxes of around 31,000 signatures to block a planned LGBT equality law – above the threshold of 17,269 required to send it to a public vote.

The tactics of campaigners gathering signatures have been strongly criticized, with church groups claiming it would allow ‘men dressed as women’ to attack people in bathrooms.

In addition, the TransAdvocate has accused them of collecting “fraudulent” signatures from people who are not registered to vote in Houston.

This week, City Attorney David Feldman told the Houston Chronicle that so many of the signatures had now been declared invalid, it was difficult to know yet whether the petition broke the threshold at all.

He told the paper that signature collecting had begun before the law was even published, and many of the people who signed were not registered voters,

He said: “There’s an issue there with respect to the validity of pages. But right now I don’t know what the final count is.”

Volunteer Noel Freeman, who headed an independent count, claims the number of invalid signatures alone pushes the petition well below the threshold needed to trigger a ballot

Mayor Annise Parker said: “If we say there are enough signatures, I’m assuming we get sued by groups like Mr. Freeman’s who have done their own count and disagree, and if we say that there are not enough signatures, I’m assuming we get sued by those who passed the petitions.”

The final decision on whether enough signatures have been collected to trigger a ballot will be made on Monday.

More: Equality, Houston, Law, Ordinance, petition, signatures, Texas, US

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