PLANO—A petition drive seeking to repeal a controversial pro-LGBT Plano city ordinance has failed dramatically due to its noncompliance with municipal and state codes. City officials said irregularities in the document prohibited City Secretary Lisa Henderson from even beginning a count of voter signatures.
Petition organizers balked at the dismissal but would not say if they intend to press the issue in court or seek repeal by other means.
After only one public hearing on the proposed Equal Rights ordinance, which extends protected characteristic status to people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, Plano City Council passed the Equal Rights Ordinance last December. A coalition of pastors and area legislators immediately began the referendum process and, within 30 days, turned in a 7,000-signature petition calling for the ordinance’s repeal.
In a Feb. 20 press release, Steve Stoler, Plano director of media relations, said the petition failed to meet three criteria for compliance and coalition leadership failed to take corrective measures when warned of the problems in a Dec. 30 email, three weeks prior to the petition’s deadline.
“The city made a good faith attempt to avoid dispute and facilitate accuracy,” Stoler stated. According to the city, the petition failed to accurately cite the role of the Equal Rights ordinance, attach a copy of the ordinance being challenged, and indicate the county of residence for each signer.
But coalition members—who received support from Austin and Houston advocates—called the dismissal a blatant disregard of the will of the people.
“While we are shocked that the city has so little regard for its citizens, we remain committed to advancing religious liberty and challenging this ordinance that clearly violates laws protecting religious freedom,” said Jeff Mateer, general counsel for the Liberty Institute, a religious liberty advocacy organization in Plano.
Jonathan Saenz, an attorney and president of Texas Values Action, which assisted in the petition drive, would not say if the coalition will continue to press for repeal. Frustrated by the city’s actions, he said the “average citizen” should not be blamed for document’s shortcomings.
“At the end of the day they did the best they could,” he said.