Plano petition drive succeeds, Houston awaits day in court

PLANO, Texas (BP) — Plano Citizens United, a coalition of churches and civic leaders, cleared the first hurdle this week in rescinding a city ordinance that legal experts said would stymie free speech and religious liberty, while opponents of a similar ordinance in Houston prepare to take their fight to court.

With no preexisting ministerial alliance in place, Plano churches were caught unprepared when the city council, led by Mayor Harry LaRosilier, passed an ordinance Dec. 8 creating a protected class of citizen based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With help from the Houston pastors’ coalition, opposition to the ordinance was hastily organized and a successful petition drive launched.

In order to force the repeal process, the coalition needed signatures of 3,822 registered Plano voters. The volunteer group verified more than 4,000 signatures before submitting nearly 7,000 to the city secretary Jan. 20.

“The mayor has been adamant,” Mike Buster, executive pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, said. “He will not discuss this with anyone. The citizens of Plano said we will discuss it. We will vote on it.”

The ordinance, like Houston’s and scores of others passed in cities across the nation, is championed by the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization calling for civil rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. The ordinances are beginning to meet opposition as they are brought to light.

Plano is home to the Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy organization. Their attorneys joined the Citizens United legal battle and stated in a press release, “Government officials have demanded that family businesses and employees be punished for simply trying to exercise their faith beyond the four walls of their church or in their homes.”

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