Houston Mayor Receives Hundreds of Bibles Over Gay and Transgender Rights Ordinance

by Julia Zdrojewski

You’ve heard the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” Well, in the case of political drama this week, the saying holds true.

Houston, TX Mayor Annise Parker, the first openly lesbian mayor of a major American city, has been the recipient of approximately 500 t0 1,000 Bibles sent to her this week in protest. The bundles of Bibles stem from the City of Houston issuing subpoenas to five local faith leaders who openly oppose the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which was passed by the Houston City Council in May of this year. It was signed by the mayor on Monday.

HERO offers protections to gay and transgender Houstonians, and is something that Parker calls, “the most personally meaningful thing I will ever do as mayor.”

The law extends beyond just sexual orientation and gender identity; it also aims to ban discrimination in regards to housing, employment and public accommodations due to sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, disability, pregnancy, and genetic information.

Awesome, right? Are we all on board? No? Well, shit.

Some of those who speak out against HERO do so because it legally allows transgender people to use any public restroom that is consistent with their gender (along with the myth that men and sexual predators would be allowed to enter women’s restrooms). Critics attempted to collect signatures in an effort to put HERO on the ballots in November as a repeal referendum. While opponents did collect the required number of signatures, it was concluded by the city attorney that they were obtained incorrectly.

In response, HERO opposers, who claim that their signatures were indeed valid, filed a lawsuit against Houston. The city reacted by issuing subpoenas to five local faith leaders for their sermons and any form of personal communication in which HERO, homosexuality or Parker may have been mentioned. One pastor in particular, Steve Riggle of the Grace Community Church in Houston, recalled that he was forced to hand over 17 different forms of communication to authorities.

This is where Fox News, a court date and religious freedom enter the story.

Mike Huckabee, former Republican primary presidential candidate and current Fox News talk show host, heard of the subpoenas and encouraged his viewers to send Bibles, as a symbol of religious freedom, to Parker. Parker has since estimated that she has received 500 to 1,000 Bibles, and states that while she appreciates the strategy and zeal of those who are interested, she feels Huckabee is just trying to “pump ratings for Fox News.” (It should be noted here that Parker plans on donating all of the Bibles to local places of worship.)

In regards to the lawsuit, a judge did rule that the situation should be heard in court, and a date has been set for this January. Depending upon the ruling, citizens could potentially vote on HERO in November 2015.

As for those subpoenas? After meeting with local and national clergy members this past Wednesday, Parker announced that she would withdraw every single one in the best interest of the city. Parker stated that the subpoenas were dropped in an effort to avoid controversy over religious freedom and instead focus on equal rights for all, which is really what should have been the center of attention the entire time.

HERO gives protections to a group of people who previously were not covered by federal anti-discrimination laws. While it is unfortunate that some citizens felt their first amendment rights were in jeopardy, attention needs to once again be placed on how we can secure equal rights for all Houstonians.

When people say “Don’t mess with Texas,” I tend to believe them, but I also want to believe that they mean ALL of Texas and ALL of its citizens regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Images via Click2Houston, ABC13 News & The Houston Chronicle

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