Mayor Annise Parker, after two weeks of intense criticism over subpoenas issued to pastors suing the city over HERO, announced Wednesday that they will be withdrawn.
"This is an issue that has weighed heavily on my mind for the last two weeks,” Parker said during a press conference on Wednesday. “Protecting the HERO from being repealed is important to Houston, but I also understand the concerns of the religious community regarding the subpoenas. After two meetings yesterday, I decided that withdrawing the subpoenas is the right thing to do. It addresses the concerns of ministers across the country who viewed the move as overreaching. It is also the right move for our city."
Dumping the subpoenas allows the city to reset the discussion over the lawsuit and continue preparations for a trial in January, Parker said.
“Today’s move refocuses the discussion and allows us to move forward," the mayor said.
The announcement came a day after Parker met with two groups of clergy to discuss the subpoenas on Tuesday.
“These pastors came to me for civil discussions about the issues,” Parker said Wednesday. "They came without political agendas, without hate in their hearts and without any desire to debate the merits of the HERO. They simply wanted to express their passionate and very sincere concerns about the subpoenas. The second meeting group wasn’t from Houston, but they took the Houston approach of civil discourse in presenting their case. We gained an understanding of each other’s positions.”
Parker added that the city will continue to defend HERO and the decision in August to reject the petition repeal.
“It is extremely important to me to protect our equal rights ordinance from repeal. We’re going to continue to vigorously defend our ordinance. We believe we can vigorously defend the city of Houston in this petition and that we can do it without the subpoenas," Parker said, according to Lone Star Q.
On Oct. 17, Parker announced that lawyers representing the city in the lawsuit would revise the subpoenas and narrow their focus to address criticism that the city was trying to bully pastors suing it over the rejection of their petition to put HERO to a public vote.
"The disputed request has been narrowed to focus solely on communications related to HERO and the petition gathering process. There is no mention whatsoever of sermons or anybody's feeling about homosexuality. This was always the intent with the subpoenas. I hasten to say that lawyers on the other side knew what the intent was. They chose to spin this up into something it was not," Parker said at the time.
Dropping the subpoenas also comes as anti-gay leaders from across the country plan to converge on Houston for I Stand Sunday on Nov. 2. The event, hosted by certified hate group Family Research Council, includes an A-list of anti-gay crusaders, including Mike Huckabee, FRC President Tony Perkins, Southern Baptist Convention president Ronnie Floyd, Phil Robertson from "Duck Dynasty," and David and Jason Benham.
The event also includes all five pastors the city subpoenaed – Steve Riggle of megachurch Grace Community Church; Dave Welch, president of the Houston Area Pastor's Council; Hernan Castano and Magda Hermida of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and Khan Huynh, pastor of a Vietnamese congregation.
Riggle's church is hosting the event.
Parker's office has also received between 500 and 1,000 Bibles from supporters of the pastors thanks to an effort ginned up by Huckabee and Sen. Ted Cruz.