A federal appeals court has blocked a
recall election to remove three El Paso, Texas elected officials who
backed gay rights, the El
Paso Times reported.
Pastor Tom Brown of the Word of Life
Church led an effort to oust El Paso Mayor John Cook and two City
Council members, Steve Ortega and Susie Byrd, because they supported
giving health insurance benefits to the unmarried domestic partners
of city workers.
The battle began in 2009, when the
Council approved giving benefits to the unmarried domestic partners
of city employees, regardless of sexual orientation. Opponents, led
by Brown, forced a voter referendum, which was approved with 55
percent of the vote in 2010.
In June, the Council restored the
insurance benefit. An outraged Brown countered with an effort to
recall the mayor and the two council members. (The terms of two
other members who voted for the ordinance have since ended.)
The Eighth Court of Appeals on Friday
unanimously ruled against Brown and ordered the recall petitions be
“Having instructed the City Clerk to
decertify the petitions, no election thereon may be called or held,”
the court ordered.
Brown and his church helped organize
the recall effort, violating a law prohibiting corporations from
making political contributions to recall elections, said Mark Walker,
Brown said he would appeal the case to
the Texas Supreme Court. Citing the appeals court's unanimous
ruling, Walker said the high court was unlikely to take the case.
Cook is seeking to have defendants,
Brown and his church, pay his attorney's fees, estimated at about
$250,000, and damages.
While Brown and his supporters have
used anti-gay sentiment in their campaign, The
New York Times reported that only 2 of the 19 city employees
in domestic partnerships who received the benefit are gay.