Houston pastors' group calls on Parker to rescind order banning trans discrimination

Posted on 07 Apr 2010 at 8:24am

The Houston Area Pastor Council is calling on out lesbian Mayor Annise Parker to rescind an executive order she signed recently that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. The HAPC alleges that the order opens women’s restrooms to men, according to the right-wing Christian Post:

“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).

Well first of all, as The Houston Chronicle noted the other day, the executive order applies only to city employees:

City Attorney Arturo Michel said the two orders do not govern restroom use in city facilities for the public, only employees. As mayor, Parker has the authority to issue orders governing the workplace behavior of city employees, but an ordinance would be required for similar changes dealing with restroom use to be made citywide.

It is a class C misdemeanor for someone to enter the restroom of the opposite sex without permission from the owner of the building where the restroom is located, he said. While transgender employees no longer have to seek permission from the city’s director of general services, the department that oversees city buildings, transgender residents must do so, he said.

And furthermore, the intent of the order as it pertains to restrooms is to prevent transgender women from being forced to use men’s restrooms. Contrary to what the HAPC says about expsoing the city to liability, it actually protects the city from liability related to sexual harassment. In fact, the language in the executive order came about as a result of an effort to protect a staff member of Councilwoman Jolanda “Jo” Jones, according to Houston’s Transgender Center:

Opponents of this action state “such measures allow men to legally enter women’s restrooms, putting women and children at risk.” Transgender Foundation of America Director (TFA), Cristan Williams responded saying, “That’s nonsense. Of course 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. This is simply a liability issue. Pretending that the City has made it legal for men to hang out in the women’s restroom is preposterous, disingenuous and, well, nutty.” In fact, employers who force transgender women into places where men are in a state of undress can be problematic.

Councilmember Jones said, “This all started out so simply: trying to require dignity and respect for one of my staffers who was targeted for who she is.” Jones went on to say that she worked directly with City Legal, “Language was crafted which sought to create a fair and equitable working environment which also protects employees from hostile working environments.

“Fringe groups will probably try to scare their donor base into believing that the gay mayor has made it legal for pedophiles to turn the restroom into their hunting grounds instead of being truthful and saying that the City acted to limit City liability. Liability issues are bland and don’t bring in the bucks for these groups. These groups know it’s more profitable to lie to their donor base and claim that without them, nobody will ’save the children.’ I find it remarkable that people fall for it. I mean really… Who would believe that the Mayor of Houston has made it legal for nefarious men to hang out in the girl’s bathroom?”

It’s a good question, but here’s an even better one. The HAPC says it “intends to pursue the matter given the consequences that have played out in other cities that have ‘opened this Pandora’s Box.’” What consequences? And in what cities?

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