Houston Clergy at Arms Over Lesbian Mayor's Orders

An interdenominational coalition of clergy in Houston is pressing its mayor to rescind the executive orders she issued recently that added sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes in Houston.

Nearly two weeks ago, openly gay mayor Annise Parker signed an order "[t]o provide a fair and equitable work environment for all employees" and another to prohibit discrimination and/or retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity "at every level of the municipal government."

The latter order, as it specifically states, covers hiring, contracting and/or access to City facilities and programs/activities.

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And this, Houston clergymen say, will open women's restrooms to men, among other results.

"Forcing women in particular using city facilities to be subjected to cross-dressing men invading their privacy is beyond the pale and offensive to every standard of decency," said Pastor Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church and an Executive Committee member of the Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC).

"This is not only morally wrong it exposes the city and therefore the taxpayers to endless litigation and expenses," added Pastor Hernan Castano, senior pastor of Iglesia Rios de Aceite and a member of the HAPC Executive Committee. "It is irresponsible and indefensible."

Notably, however, supporters of the executive order are insisting that it remains unlawful for men to go into the women's restroom.

"This order stops the institutionalized practice of forcing transgender females, like myself, to go into restrooms where males are in a state of undress," explained Cristan Williams, director of Transgender Foundation of America.

But as Castano pointed out, there are currently no legal boundaries for either of the two new categories of minority status, unlike the color of a person's skin, their biological gender or religious faith.

"Protecting 'expression' and 'identity' are designed to drop the bottom out of our moral foundation," he asserted.

Aside from the actual move itself, which was predictable for many given the mayor's sexual orientation, the HAPC is also criticizing the timing of the move, which came not long after Parker's inauguration as the city's first openly gay mayor. It's only been two months since Parker was sworn into office and less than three month since she was elected.

"We are appalled but not surprised that this mayor has so early in her administration proven that we were right in asserting before the election that her sexual preference is central to her public policy," stated HAPC Executive Director Dave Welch.

"Her reprehensible actions to open women's restrooms to men make our case and expose her pre-election denials as fraudulent," Welch added.

Furthermore, Welch takes issue with how the mayor so easily brushed off the will of the people.

In 1995, Houston voters had passed ballot measures prohibiting the extension of special rights based on sexual behavior. They did the same in 2001.

"She (Parker) is now acting by decree to impose her agenda in direct contrast to those votes," commented Welch.

Welch's organization is presently reviewing the language of the executive orders as well as considering a variety of legal, political and community actions.

The HAPC head told The Christian Post on Tuesday that the group intends to pursue the matter given the consequences that have played out in other cities that have "opened this Pandora's Box."

Parker's executive orders, 1-08 and 1-02, were both signed on March 25 and put into effect on the spot.

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