HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) – Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading proponents of same-sex marriage in the United States in the run up to the Supreme Court's landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which made the practice legal nationwide, is now claiming faith groups in Houston are in favor of Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).
Justin Davis, HRC's religion and faith program assistant, casts the ordinance in a blog post as an expansion of legal protections for Houston residents, regardless of sexual orientation or "gender identity." Therein lies the problem for most Christian churches – the ordinance, if passed, would give men and women identifying as "transgender" the right to choose which public restroom to use.
"Quite often, the perception is that supporting equality for LGBT people is incompatible with being a person of faith, but as we have seen in recent years past, this is no longer the case," Davis writes. "As more and more LGBT people come out, their friends, family, co-workers and communities of faith come to see that discrimination and exclusion of their loved ones on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity are incompatible with the ideals of their faith that teach love of neighbor, kindness, and acceptance."
"For many people of faith, voting in support of HERO is an opportunity to vote their conscience in upholding the shared value of treating their neighbor as they would like to be treated. All Houstonians deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and equality in the eyes of the law, and HERO ensures that all will be."
Davis writes that Houston Unites, a coalition in support of the ordinance, attracted Houston residents from 16 congregations – among the city's more than 1,000 churches – to vote in favor of HERO in early voting. However, Houston Unites only lists one church (a Disciples of Christ congregation), one synagogue, one chapel, and one Unitarian Universalist association as coalition partners.
History shows, however, that Houston's churches are not in favor of the ordinance. When Houston's first openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, pushed the ordinance through the city council last year, dozens of Houston-area pastors spoke out against it. Parker later subpoenaed their sermons and touched off a fight over religious liberty and free speech. The pastors won that fight.
A Texas Supreme Court ruling later said the ordinance had to be put to a popular vote. That vote is scheduled for Nov. 3.
Ed Young Sr., pastor of Houston's Second Baptist Church, has led opposition to the ordinance. In a sermon Sept. 22, he said the passage of the ordinance would open up the city and eventually the entire metropolitan Houston area to "something that is absolutely godless."
"You say I'm being political. Well, no. I speak out on a very serious moral issue," Young told his congregation. "Those of us who believe men should use men's facilities and women should use women's facilities, we will be discriminated against."
On Oct. 7, pastors of several hundred Houston-area churches gathered at Second Baptist Church to encourage citizens to oppose HERO. Seven pastors spoke to the group. One pastor said the ordinance promotes "reverse discrimination for people who believe in God." Another called the ordinance "deadly, decisive, and damning."