HOUSTON-Round One may be over, but the battle lines are drawn across Houston over the new Houston Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the Houston City Council.
“Our next step is to file a petition and get the signatures needed to put this to a vote by the people,” said Rev. David Welch, on behalf of the pastors’ coalition involving eight major denominational and inter-denominational pastor networks in the Houston Area. “We will not roll over and will not stop and plan to send a strong message to city council members who picked sides and stood with Mayor Annise Parker and the tiny minority driving this radical agenda.”
The controversial measure bans discrimination based not just on sexual orientation and gender identity but also, as federal laws do, sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy and genetic information, as well as family, marital or military status.
The ordinance applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment and city contracting. Religious institutions would be exempt. Violators could be fined up to $5,000.
To stop the ordinance, Welch and coalition pastors will have to file that petition and will have 30 days to secure 17,000 signatures from registered Houston voters in order put it on the ballot. Before doing so, the council would have one shot at repealing it before it goes to voters.
Black pastors, congregations along with Hispanic and Asian pastors and churches, find it patently offensive to equate the color of their skin, which they did not choose, with a person’s lifestyle choice. Additionally, the Civil Rights movement has been about making sure everyone has the same rights.
Pastor F.N. Williams, founder of Ministers Against Crime and very active community leader and civil rights activist, said the ordinance may have passed by man’s vote, but the Bible is still right and the ordinance is still wrong.
“Our calling is to support the Bible and what is says and this is against God’s will,” he said. “This is behavior from Sodom and Gomorrah. God will never be pleased with this.”
The coalition is made up a a group from the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston, Houston Area Pastor Council, Houston Ministers Against Crime, AME Ministers Alliance of Houston/Gulf Coast , Northeast Ministers Alliance, South Texas Full Gospel Baptist Fellowship, South Texas District Council of the Assemblies of God and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
Mayor Parker acknowledged that this is primarily about the LGBT community and the city attorney in his public comments at the committee meeting acknowledged there was not a legitimate local need.
Pastors raised our concerns as to the privacy and protection of women and children through the Public Accommodations section that is not better, but worse, with the removal of 17-51 (b).
Pastors contend Parker and the city council have reject good government, common decency, the notion of protecting our women and children and ultimately the clear will of over 80% of Houston citizens.
The pastors group released a brief overview of a survey taking from citizens of the community on the issue.
These surveys were conducted to 50,000 total homes per the cc/Advertising provided database of (12,500 homes per survey). The purpose of these surveys was to educate Houston citizens on mayor’s Open Restroom Law and urge citizens to advocate against the law by contacting their council members.
The summary of respondents revealed:
76% of all respondents vote (4,010 people).
89% of all respondents do not want men to use women’s public bathrooms and/or showers in Houston, TX (3,300 people).
85% of all respondents would vote against Mayor Parker’s Open Restroom Law (2,702people).
The pastors are even looking beyond the ordinance vote to the next city council elections and mayoral race – with the goals of supporting candidates who truly reflect the community and will of the people.
“This has been a real lesson and illustration to pastors and churches on why we should be involved in the political process,” he said. “It is important that the voice of the people and will of the people be heard on every issue.”
Pastors revealed the direct threat to the freedoms of religion and speech against business owners who simply practice business according to their faith by following principles once that were the norm.
They also rejected the comparison of sexual behavior and the definition of gender identity with race, religion, sex and physical disability that are immutable, unchangeable classes.
“This is a spiritual battleground and represents a rejection of God’s creative order,” Welch said. “There has never been a civilization in history that has taken positions like this and stood very long.”