Over the last couple of days, Burleson Mayor Ken Shetter has been getting a lot of attention on the Internet for a lengthy “note” he posted on Facebook on Monday, July 13, explaining why he supports marriage equality — both as a public official and as a Christian individual.
Shetter first took to Facebook immediately after the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality was announced, expressing his support for equality and his happiness for his LGBT friends and LGBT residents of Burleson. Then when a Burleson resident went to Facebook to challenge Shetter “or anyone else that is OK with gay marriage, to quote me a bible verse, that states gay marriage is acceptable to God, the Almighty!!!”
Shetter responded with his note, titled, “But the greatest of these is Love.” I am not going to quote Shetter’s entire note in this post. It’s quite long, and besides, you can go here to read the whole thing for yourself. You’ll probably want to read it more than once. Several times maybe.
I do, however, want to highlight a couple of his points. Starting with this: “As the mayor, I congratulate LGBT citizens of Burleson on their right to marry. Further, I am pleased the Supreme Court’s ruling is just one of many ways we are telling members of the LGBT community (particularly LGBT youth) they are fully accepted and valued participants in our society–no matter where they live.”
And then there’s this: “For anyone who feels the statement above infringes upon their rights as a Christian, I would hasten to say I am bound by the free exercise clause of the First Amendment just as much as the separation clause. My views as public servant do not in any way inhibit your ability to exercise your religious beliefs, no matter how they relate to the issue of gay marriage.
“On a personal level, I celebrate the right of my gay friends to be married, as well as the fact they are accepted and embraced more fully in today’s society. I do so not in spite of my Christian beliefs, but at least partially because of my Christian beliefs.”
And in response to the challenge to quote chapter and verse where God says marriage equality is OK, Shetter opts for a portion of 1 Corinthian Chapter 13, commonly known as The Love Chapter, ending with this: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Then he adds verses from John Chapter 13: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As you can imagine, Shetter is getting a lot of praise from LGBT people and others who support equality. I don’t have to tell you how great it is to see the mayor of a relatively small town in a conservative area speak up and offer a beacon of love and acceptance and hope to LGBT people.
As you can probably also imagine, not everybody is a fan. Especially not everybody in Burleson. You are probably thinking Ken Shetter is a pretty courageous guy. And you;d be right. How do I know? Well, because I worked for a newspaper in Johnson County. My “beat” was Burleson, which means I covered the Burleson school district and Burleson City Council among other things. I met Ken Shetter, and I have been impressed with him since the beginning, before I had any idea he was so supportive of equality.
Ken Shetter was in his second term as a city council member in 2004 when he was first elected mayor. He has been mayor ever since. He is a progressive with a vision for his city, and he is willing to put in the work necessary to make that vision come true. If you want to know what his vision is, check out the city website here.
He is also an attorney and executive director of One Safe Place, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter and services to victims of domestic abuse. Not too long ago, he posted a note on Facebook stressing that domestic abuse does occur in same-sex couples, and that LGBT victims of domestic abuse are welcome at One Safe Place.These are just some of the reasons I think Ken Shetter is the kind of person Texas needs in the State Legislature. He’s the kind of person we need in Congress. The trick, first of all, is to get him to consider leaving his beloved Burleson long enough to run for and serve in higher office. The second would be to get this good man elected.Why, you may wonder, would it be so hard to get a man who has a proven track record as an honest and effective civil servant elected to higher office? Precisely because he is a good man, a Christian man who isn’t afraid to stand up and say that equality for everyone – regardless of what some churches might preach.You may think that those would all be reasons Shetter would be the perfect candidate. I mean, yeah, Burleson itself is a “small town,” but it’s right here in the DFW Metroplex. It’s a small town, but it is very big city-adjacent.But then you have to stop and realize that most of Burleson is in Johnson County, and Johnson County is VERY conservative. Don’t get me wrong; there are some wonderful people in Johnson County, but a lot of them are on the far right end of religious conservatism. And Burleson and Johnson County are home to the Texas Patriot TEA Party, one of the largest and most active TEA Party groups around. I’ve been to some of their meetings; they brought in Tom DeLay as a speaker, and Cathie Adams, who is such a right-wing fanatic that she is truly scary.So yeah, Ken Shetter has a lot of supporters and a lot of history in Burleson. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t, at least in some ways, putting his political career on the line when he came out so publicly and so vocally and so forcefully in favor of marriage equality and LGBT equality in general.He did what he did because it is, in his opinion, the right thing to do. That’s a rare thing, especially in politics. So if you live in Burleson, show your support for the mayor. Show your support even if you don’t live there. Ken Shetter deserves it.