Megachurch Pastor Asks Texas Mayor to Quit Over Gay Activism

The pastor of a megachurch in Houston, Texas, accused the city's openly gay Mayor Annise Parker of promoting same-sex marriage and asked her to resign for not upholding the state's constitution, which says marriage is only between a man and a woman.

"Respectfully, if you cannot uphold the Texas constitution, then you should do the honorable thing and step down," Steve Riggle, the founding and senior pastor of Grace Community Church, told Parker, a Democrat, in an e-mail.

The pastor of the megachurch, which has about 15,000 people, wrote he was "deeply disturbed" by an official memo that titled Parker's partner as the first lady of Houston a few months ago. "You should have corrected that since you know that title has been given only to the wife or husband of the mayor in the appropriate gender language," the email said, as quoted by KHOU 11 News on Wednesday.

Mayor Parker, who was president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus in 1986, has been in office since January 2010. She has been together with her partner, Kathy Hubbard, since 1990 and they have two adopted daughters and one foster son.

Parker reacted to the pastor's letter, alleging it carries a political agenda. "This has to do with whatever their personal animus is to me," she was quoted as saying. "I don't let it distract me. I have a right to talk about the things that are important to this city."

Parker recently joined a coalition called Freedom to Marry, which comprises about 90 mayors. "Okay, I'm an out lesbian. They know that. I'm in a long-term relationship," she told Huffington Post last month. "And yes, I want the ability to marry my spouse. And here I am, one of 90 mayors from around the country, and somehow it provoked this wave of hate mail."

Dave Welch, the director of the Houston Area Pastor Council, is supporting Pastor Riggle's call for Parker's resignation. "The voters spoke very clearly in 2005, adopting our state constitutional amendment defining marriage as one man and one woman," Welch was quoted as saying. "The mayor's repeated stance against our constitution and the will of the people raises questions about her fitness for office."

Parker was re-elected as mayor last November. When Houston became the largest city with an openly gay mayor following her first win in the December 2009 mayoral election, Parker told her supporters, "Tonight the voters of Houston have opened the door to history. I acknowledge that. I embrace that. I know what this win means to many of us who never thought we could achieve high office."