In May of 2014, Houston City Council passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO. A recent ruling from the Texas Supreme Court forced the councilmembers to either repeal the measure or put it before the voters on the November ballot. In a recent City Council meeting, they voted overwhelmingly to leave the decision to the voters in November.
Since that decision, supporters of HERO have hit the ground running to educate voters about the importance of the measure. But they aren’t the only ones who have been busy.
“Christians, it’s time to stand up and fight to take back our government from the godless Secular Humanists, Pro-Abortionists and Political Homosexual Movement.”
This is nothing new for Texas Values. They were vocal proponents of the anti-LGBT bills that were filed at the Texas Legislature this past session.
The anti-HERO campaigns center faith and religion in much of their messaging, including in the title of an eight city tour kicked off last week in opposition to the anti-discrimination ordinance: the Faith, Family and Freedom Tour Across Texas. According to the Quorum Report, the event featured prominent Texas conservatives including a candidate for the chairmanship of the Republican Party of Texas.
One of the featured speakers at the event, Dr. Steven Hotze, likened LGBT Texans to Nazis. As reported by the Quorum Report, Hotze pointed out that they were “wicked,” and continued by saying, “Well, let me ask you this. Has anybody ever heard of Nazis? They were wicked, right?” Hotze didn’t stop there. LGBT Texans, he said, were a “hate group.”
“They’re a hate group. The homosexuals are hate mongers.“
But opponents of HERO aren’t the only ones speaking out.
The same week that this eight city tour of homophobia launched, another organization announced they would be working to ensure that HERO stayed in place. While anti-HERO forces focus on fear mongering and misleading and harmful narratives about bathrooms and gender, the Houston Unites campaign will be working to counter this narrative of hate with one of compassion, and counts many faith leaders among its supporters.
One such leader spoke out after the Texas Values rally in Houston.
Following the rally, Pastor Rudy Rasmus, senior pastor at St. John’s Church, a large congregation in downtown Houston, issued the following statement:
“We thought tonight’s gathering was to oppose Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, but the group instead began raising issues that aren’t even on the ballot. All of us care about privacy and safety in bathrooms and nothing in HERO changes that. But the question on the ballot is simple: Do Houstonians support treating others as they wish to be treated? I submit to you most of us believe we are all God’s children and deserve protection from discrimination – no matter someone’s race, religion, gender identity, veterans status or sexual orientation.”
Now that the measure is back on the ballot, we can expect those like Hotze to continue to spread bigoted homophobia across the state to garner support for the opposition. It isn’t about bathrooms – Hotze said it himself. It’s because opponents of HERO think LGBT Texans are wicked. And we cannot let that kind of hatred stand.