The Houston City Council passed an Equal Rights Ordinance by a 2-1 margin on May 28, 2014. This vote came after months of work, reports from lawyers crafting the law, and public hearings both at the committee level and before the full city council. Public comments at these hearing were overwhelmingly in favor of the law.
Throughout this process the chief opponents of the law have been religious conservatives. Their opposition is rooted in their homophobia and transphobia because the law makes it illegal in Houston to discriminate against people for these reasons. These opponents now seek to continue their opposition to the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance by seeking to have the law repealed by ballot initiative. These people will be holding a rally Saturday, November 1 to gain public support for their position of intolerance and discrimination.
America does not make laws at any level (city, state, or federal) based on upon whether or not the legislation agrees or disagrees with any particular religious group’s or sect’s beliefs. This is known as the Wall of Separation between church and state. This is the core of the First Amendment to the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson upholds this in his letter to The Danbury Baptists. Ironically baptists were among those who championed this wall and are now the chief proponents of dismantling it. Whatever your religion’s teachings on homosexuality and gender expression, civil society is not required to follow those teachings. Period. End of Discussion. Everyone is encouraged to engage the political discussion from a vantage point based on their most deeply held beliefs and most cherished values, but in order to argue convincingly for or against a law, you must offer a more solid argument than said law in question does or does not support your religious beliefs.
I support HERO because I believe the Constitution and our entire legal system must consider everyone an equal person before the law. Does my religion also teach this? Yes, my religion teaches that every human being is worthy of dignity and respect and equal treatment regardless of gender, gender expression, race, religious belief, language or national origin. However, that teaching is, in and of itself, not the reason for my support. My support comes from the fact each and every person be treated equally. Should you oppose HERO for religious reasons, at least be honest to state openly that you do so because, inspired by your faith, you believe there are certain types of human beings that are by nature inferior to others.
We don’t vote on human rights and equal rights. The reason we don’t is that just because something is the majority opinion does mean it is right and just. We did not vote on civil rights law. We didn’t vote on it because during Reconstruction and during the 1950s and 1960s the popular vote would have been AGAINST treating people of color as equal human beings in dignity and rights. We should NOT have and should NOT be voting on treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered persons with equal dignity and rights either. The courts are beginning to recognize this in a number of recent rulings.
I am among the great many religious leaders in Houston who support HERO unequivocally and whole heartedly. So here I sit at a rally in support of HERO at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston on 5200 Fannin Street on All Saints Day…what a good time to support a HERO.