Dear Christians Voters in Houston who opposed HERO,
I am writing to you today with a deeply grieved heart. Deep in my spirit, I can hear the words of Jesus as he gave his life on the cross saying, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." (Luke 23:34) In a very real sense, you have chosen to reject Christ and have stood for his oppression and marginalization in your city, because Christ is found not behind the mighty pulpits of your churches or in the faces of the politicians you admire, but in those who your society marginalizes and fears the most -- sexual and gender minorities. These are hard words, to be sure, but they are words that I feel must be spoken.
As your brother in Christ and as a queer-identified individual, I look on at the decision you have made to reject the HERO Proposition and see it as a wholesale rejection of the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said that his Gospel was "good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, liberation to the captive, and jubilee for all people." (Luke 4:18-19) He spent his time raising up those who the religious leaders viewed as unclean. He spoke harsh words, words about hellfire and judgment, not about the minorities in his society, but about the religious elite who felt they had a commission from God to keep those minorities oppressed.
Your choice to reject the HERO was a choice to side with power, privilege, and the religious elite. It was a choice to side against the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed.
Now, I know that you believe that this ordinance was more about your religious freedoms than it was about human rights or equality. I know that your pastors and politicians have convinced you that it is part of a broader agenda to force Christians to conform to the desires of the secular society or face persecution at the hands of the government. I know that you think this ordinance was part of a plan that would jeopardize the safety of your children. I know that this victory feels like a win for your "Judeo-Christian values." I really do understand your perspective.
But I also want you to know that much of what you have been told is patently false. There has been misinformation spread to your pastors and religious leaders by politicians who are less interested in opposing equal rights and more about making a political statement. We live in a day where politicians regularly deceive religious leaders in order to further their own agendas and it is clear that this is what's happened in Houston. This is why as citizens (and even more so as Christians), we must be thoughtful with our voting. We must not simply accept what others tells us from pulpits or on television, but from actually taking time to understand the issues, so that we can make decisions with integrity, based on fact and not based on political misinformation.
Here are some facts: (I'd encourage you to do the work to verify this information!) Texas is one of a number of states that doesn't offer protections to sexual and gender minorities from discrimination. However, a number of major cities around your state have chosen to extend protections against discrimination that the average citizen is afforded to LGBTQ citizens. These protections aren't "special protections." They're basic, fundamental rights that you would want for yourself and anyone you cared about. Rights to not be fired from your job because someone didn't agree with your religious beliefs or political views. Rights to not be refused housing because someone is prejudiced against your ethnicity or faith. These are rights that all citizens should have. But in Houston, LGBTQ people arent explicitly protected and therefore face the possibility of discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity.
The HERO was meant to extend these explicit protections to sexual and gender minorities. (As well as everyone who lives in Houston, for that matter) That's it. Nothing more and nothing less. It simply means that buisnesses and government agencies are not permitted to discriminate against anyone. But now that you have voted HERO down, there is a greater possibility that discrimination can occur in your city with little to no legal consequence. And that is simply not right. It doesn't align with Christian values nor does it align with American values.
Yet, because many of the citizens of Houston have been deceived, believing that this legislation was meant to allow men to enter women bathrooms for whatever reason they desired. That's simply not the case, and shows a fundamental lack of understanding about transgender identity. Many believed that this was meant to make it easier for the government to harass churches and pastors who didn't employ or endorse same-sex relationships. That's also not the case. This ordinance was simply and truly a human rights ordinance extending protection and dignity to the vulnerable. But, in the minds of many Houston voters, it was turned into just another issue in a culture war against "the liberals."
Today is a sad day for the city of Houston. It's a sad day for our nation. Today, the fundamental dignity and humanity of sexual and gender minorities has been desecrated by a number of Houston voters, many of whom identify as followers of Jesus. As I think about this sad reality, I hear the words of the Prophet Isaiah, who said:
You don't know how to live in peace or to be fair with others. The roads you make are crooked; your followers cannot find peace... Injustice is everywhere; justice seems far away. Truth is chased out of court; honesty is shoved aside. (Isaiah 59:8 & 15)
We are that wicked nation who does not know how to be fair. We are the ones walking a crooked road. Injustice in the name of our God is indeed everywhere. May all followers of Jesus heed the words of our God, spoken afresh to us today. May we turn from our ways of injustice and from our crooked paths to the way of righteousness. The way of justice and truth for all people. That is our only hope.