Last week, the city of Houston issued subpoenas to five local pastors for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [Houston Equal Rights Ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you or in your possession.”
One provision of the ordinance that started the controversy would allow people access to restrooms of the opposite sex if they identify as transgender. Citizens who opposed the measure initiated a petition drive to put a repeal referendum on the ballot, collecting thousands of signatures in the process. The city attorney rejected the petition, claiming irregularities affecting many of the signatures (over 50,000 were submitted for the required number of 17,259). Some of the citizens associated with the petition sued, which prompted lawyers representing the city to issue the subpoenas to, in the words of a Houston Chronicle story, “several high-profile pastors and religious leaders who have been vocal in opposing the ordinance.” This despite the fact that the pastors were not actually parties involved with the lawsuit.
Should the city of Houston be able to issue these subpoenas? What are the larger implications of the situation? And should the pastors comply? Some relevant thoughts from around the web: