Guns, God and gays: first day of prefiling for upcoming Lege session

abaa8de7236b4022851ea2557e2d68b0dc212ddb6ea8b427616006bb297bd2cdToday is the first day for Texas legislators and members-elect to pre-file legislation for the 84th legislative session. This means you get to see just how crazy some of your newly and returning elected officials really are. Don’t worry everyone, the first day of pre-filing didn’t bring out the worst of your electeds just yet. Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, only filed a handful actually, so the worst is yet to come.

As of mid-afternoon, legislators have pre-filed 336 bills.

Rep. Walter “Four” Price, R-Amarillo, filed four bills commemorating the National Day of Prayer, Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, filed HB 195, loosening restrictions on gun toting. Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, is gonna keep abortionists out of the classroom with HB 205.

But wait! LGBT people were recognized by our allies!

Out Rep. Mary Gonzalez, D-El Paso, filed HB 70, an anti-bullying bill preventing discrimination against and harassment of students in public schools based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, filed HJR34, one of many bills targeting the repeal of Texas’ same-sex marriage ban. As the Voice reported, Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, filed HB 130, repealing Texas’ same sex marriage ban. The identical SB 98, was filed by Sens. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. Sen. Rodríguez also filed SB 148, repealing language condemning homosexuality in the state’s health and penal codes.

 

 

—  James Russell

Rep. Jessica Farrar files bill to remove sodomy law from Texas Penal Code

Rep. Jessica Farrar

State Rep. Jessica Farrar

Houston Democrat Jessica Farrar has filed HB 1701 to remove Texas’ “homosexual conduct” law from the Texas Penal Code.

Despite the U.S. Supreme Court finding the law unconstitutional in the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, the law remains on the books as a misdemeanor offense, even though it is not enforceable.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, who has filed the bill every session since the law was found unconstitutional, said he planned to file the legislation again this year.

State Sen. Jose Rodriquez, D-El Paso, filed the companion bill, SB 538, earlier this month. It has been assigned to the State Affairs Committee.

“There is absolutely no justification for this antiquated and unconstitutional provision to remain on the books,” Equality Texas Executive Director Chuck Smith said. “It is past time for this relic of the past to be repealed from the Texas Penal Code.”

Read the full release below.

—  Dallasvoice

Reps. Anchia, Coleman file bill to repeal Texas’ marriage amendment

Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 9.00.34 AM

A screengrab of the text of the House Joint Resolution from the Texas Legislature’s website.

Rep. Rafael Anchia

Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas

While Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, has filed a bill to repeal the marriage amendment repeatedly since it passed in 2005, we’re pretty sure this marks the first time Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, has signed on as a co-author. Here’s the full release from Equality Texas:

Reps. Rafael Anchia and Garnet Coleman File Legislation to Repeal Discriminatory Marriage Amendment

Two-thirds of Texas’ voters now support some form of legal recognition for lesbian & gay couples.

Austin, Texas (February 6, 2013) – State Representatives Rafael Anchia of Dallas (D-103) and Garnet Coleman of Houston (D-147) today filed legislation [HJR 77 and HJR 78] to repeal the constitutional amendment added to the Bill of Rights to the Texas Constitution in 2005. The amendment denies same-gender Texans in committed relationships the freedom to marry or enter into a civil union.

“In 2005, most Texans did not support any form of legal recognition for lesbian and gay couples. But, public opinion has changed greatly in the last eight years, both across the country and right here in Texas,” said Representative Coleman, who has championed a repeal in multiple legislative sessions. “Two-thirds of Texas’ voters now believe the state should allow some form of legal recognition for committed same-gender couples,” Coleman said.

Indeed, an October, 2012 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll reported that 36 percent of Texas voters surveyed would support allowing lesbian & gay couples to marry, while another 33 percent would allow civil unions but not marriage. Only 25 percent of Texas voters said that same-gender couples should neither be allowed to marry nor enter into a civil union.

“Millions of Texans have had their own very personal evolution on this issue,” said Chuck Smith, Executive Director at Equality Texas. “Texans now agree that all couples in loving and committed relationships deserve the opportunity to create stronger and more successful families. Because the Texas Constitution currently prohibits any form of recognition similar to marriage, the first step toward civil unions or marriage must be repeal of the discriminatory 2005 amendment,” Smith concluded.

“My constituents include many couples and families who are negatively impacted by the current constitutional restrictions. It is time we revisit this issue; it is time we treat all Texans with dignity and respect,” Rep. Anchia concluded.

—  John Wright

Obama hasn’t replied to TX secession petition, but Rep. Garnet Coleman has

Garnet Coleman

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, a staunch LGBT ally who also happens to be African-American, sent out the below statement on Wednesday — complete with the image above — responding to a now-infamous petition we mentioned the other day calling for the White House to allow Texas to secede. Perhaps President Barack Obama should incorporate some of Coleman’s remarks into his own response to the petition. We’d especially recommend this paragraph:

The online petition, which currently has around 60,000 signatures and counting, is unfortunately not surprising. Ever since the election of this country’s first black president, there has been a surge of  rhetoric that had mostly lied dormant since the Civil War and subsequent Jim Crow era. After the election of President Obama, however, Governor Perry, whose hunting ranch was named “Niggerhead” until just recently, openly hinted at secession, and we spent much of last session talking about things like “states’ rights,” including a “Committee on State Sovereignty” and a House Resolution incorrectly asserting the state’s “rights under the Tenth Amendment.” This kind of rhetoric needs to end.

Read Coleman’s full statement below.

—  John Wright

Elected officials, newspapers in Texas largely silent on Obama’s support for marriage equality

Not surprisingly, we haven’t heard a whole hell of a lot from elected officials in Texas about President Barack Obama’s decision to come out in support of marriage equality.

That may be because some Texas Republicans are reluctant to slam the president too hard given how quickly public opinion is changing on this issue, while some Democrats may be reluctant to lavish too much praise because, after all, it is still Texas.

But you can always count on State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, to speak up anytime we cross a significant milestone in the fight for full LGBT equality. Coleman, a staunch LGBT ally who happens to be facing an openly gay challenger in the Democratic Primary, sent out the below statement in an email on Friday, along with an image of the brilliant editorial cartoon by the Houston Chronicle’s Nick Anderson that I’ve posted above. (On a side note, it doesn’t appear as though the Chronicle has actually published an editorial in support of Obama’s announcement. The San Angelo Standard Times did so over the weekend, but I’m not aware of any other newspapers in Texas that have, including both The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Which is shameful.)

Anyhow, here’s what Coleman had to say in his email:

Like so many others over the years, President Obama has finally come to realize that there is no “separate but equal” when it comes to marriage rights. Civil Unions that grant equal rights are simply not good enough. Marriage is a special bond that for far too long this country has withheld from gays and lesbians. I, and many others, have been fighting for marriage equality for years, and now we have the President on our side.

We still do not have marriage equality in Texas, but the tide is turning. It is only a matter of time now before we are all treated equally under the eyes of the law. This is a civil rights issue, and Reverend Al Sharpton said it best: “We cannot be selective with civil rights. We must support civil rights for everybody or we don’t support them for anyone.”

—  John Wright

Lawmaker to file repeal of TX marriage ban

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

OK fine, he does it every biennial session, so it’s not huge news, but hey, made you look!

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, sent out a Policy and News Alert today in which he recaps recent advances for marriage equality across the country. Coleman also confirms his plans to continue filing bills to repeal Texas’ 2005 constitutional amendment, which bans both same-sex marriage and civil unions. From Coleman’s email:

“While major progress is being made state by state for marriage equality, the fight is not over. Texas and thirty-seven other states have laws in place denying marriage equality to all couples. For this reason, I file a bill every session to repeal the ban on marriage equality in Texas. Barring same-sex couples from legally entering into a lifelong commitment of marriage comes from an old school of thought and is a blatant denial of civil rights. Every American and Texan should have the ability to enter a loving and committed relationship with the person of their choice.”

Coleman, among the staunchest LGBT allies in the Texas Legislature, faces a challenge in this year’s Democratic Primary from controversial gay activist Ray Hill.

Read Coleman’s full email on his blog.

—  John Wright

Houston’s State Rep. Garnet Coleman applauds Prop. 8 decision

State Rep. Garnet Coleman

Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, took to his blog today to applaud yesterday’s decision by the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals declaring Proposition 8  unconstitutional (Prop. 8, passed in 2008, prohibited marriage equality in California):

“Yesterday’s 9th Circuit decision, just like the decision in Lawrence v. Texas, is a stepping stone on the path to marriage equality for all. As Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the opinion, ‘Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gay men and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.’ The same holds true for the marriage equality ban in Texas. That is why I continue to fight for marriage equality and continue to file the repeal of the ban of same sex marriage. Denying gay couples the right to marry is unconstitutional and a blatant denial of human rights. “

Coleman has a long history of filing pro-LGBT legislation in the Texas House. Last year he introduced historic legislation that, had it passed, would have called for a state-wide vote to repeal the section of Texas’ constitution prohibiting same-sex marriage, so he’s no stranger to the battle for marriage equality.

Coleman is seeking re-election to his District 147 seat. He will face long-time local LGBT activist Ray Hill in the Democratic Primary. No republican candidate has filed for the seat.

Read Coleman’s full statement on his blog.

—  admin

Ray Hill kicks off campaign for Texas House with YouTube videos

Ray Hill

Ray Hill

As previously reported by Houstini Ray Hill, the iconic and iconoclastic Houston LGBT activist, announced this year that he would challenge ten-term incumbent state representative Garnet Coleman in next spring’s Democratic Primary. Hill is running what he calls an “unfunded campaign,” relying on social media and support from community members to get his message out.

We haven’t heard much about the campaign since Hill filed at the beginning of the month (perhaps he’s been distracted by his recent arrest during an attempt to prevent the HPD vice squad from harassing strippers), but Hill seems to have gotten back into the campaign saddle, releasing two YouTube videos about his campaign and why he thinks he’s the best choice to represent district 147 (they can be viewed after the jump). The audio’s not the best (tip: taping next to a roaring waterfall does not produce the best sound), but in both videos Hill expresses his belief that the common people of the district will vote him into office. Judge for yourself:

—  admin

The 6 best responses to Perry’s day of prayer

LGBT Texans Against Hate

Riki Miller, Zombie McZee and Britney Miranda.

The first organized response to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response” was Friday night’s LGBT Texans Against Hate rally. Despite temperatures that had barely come down from the triple digits, Houstonians thronged to Tranquility Park in downtown. Beyond commenting on the temperature, the common theme of most of the speakers was that the American Family Association and Gov. Rick Perry’s rally is not representative of Houston and was not welcomed.

Robert Shipman, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said: “I kinda think Rick Perry chose the wrong city!”

He continued “They are the bigots, we are not … we are Houston.”

“I guess we should take comfort in the fact that, except for some of his staffers, [Gov. Perry] couldn’t find enough homegrown bigotry in the state of Texas to put on the event himself,” said Mike Craig, co-chair of Out & Equal Houston. “He had to bus them in from Tupulo, Miss., and Colorado Springs, Colo.” Craig was referring to American Family Association (based in Tupulo) and Focus on the Family (based in Colorado Springs), both co-sponsors of “The Response.”

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, provided the closing address. He criticized Gov. Perry for using divisive religious rhetoric for political gain. “Being here today I’m proud that we are fighting back against a narrow, theocratic view of the world that we live in and of our country that says that people are not welcomed — that says that people are bad because of who they are. That is not America,” said Coleman. “That is what is dividing our city, our state and our country.”

— Daniel Williams

 

Non-LGBT groups

A billboard truck paid for by the Freedom from Religion Foundation sits outside Reliant Stadium on Saturday during ‘The Response.’
Han Will and Katherine Godby from First Congregational Church of Fort Worth.

Houston’s Kirby Drive winds past the front entry to Reliant Stadium. At one point, just past the stadium, the road makes a slight curve. The main gate to the stadium’s parking lot is here, and the combination of Kirby Drive’s curve and the thoroughfare-like entrance gate creates a three-way intersection centered around a small concrete traffic island. On Saturday, this intersection became a carousel of non-LGBT groups protesting Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, dubbed “The Response.”

Each corner was claimed by a different group that feels “The Response” violated values it holds dear. On one corner, the American Atheists — who objected to the response as state promotion of religion. On the next corner, the Freedom From Religion Foundation which, due to its strategic location, was positioned to yell at idling cars waiting for entrance to the stadium. On the last corner, a group of Lyndon LaRouche supporters, who toted a 6-foot poster of President Barack Obama portrayed as Hitler. Finally, cordoned on the concrete island by crowd-control fencing: Westboro Baptist Church. Positioned at the axis of discontent, WBC managed to draw the ire of all the other groups, and every attendee to “The Response” who drove by.

The most fervent shouting matches were between the Atheists and Westboro Baptist Church. Small cadres of Athiests would hurl taunts like “Your imaginary friend doesn’t scare me.” Which would cause the protesters from WBC to launch into another round of what seemed to be their favorite song: “God Hates America,” set to the tune of “God Bless America.”

Dan Barker, co-president of Freedom from Religion Foundation.

Trapped behind the Atheists, in a small strip of grass between the sidewalk and a steep embankment, the people of First Congregational Church of Fort Worth seemed a little lost. Han Will, who drove to Houston with the church Friday night, is a petite grandmotherly lady who would look more at home serving homemade cookies than holding a protest sign, but her determination to have her message of a loving and caring Christianity was undaunted. “We think that God is Love. Some other Christians seem to distort that, but we say that hate speech is not the Gospel.”

Katherine Godby, also from First Congregational Church added, “Obviously we support prayer, but fighting for social justice is another form of prayer.” Godby’s statement was cut off by one of the protesters from the Freedom From Religion Foundation across the street yelling, “Nothing fails like prayer, it’s a waste of time, it’s delusional.”

Lyndon LaRouche supporters.

The group from the Freedom From Religion Foundation traveled from Madison, Wisc., to protest “The Response.” They rented a billboard truck that circled Reliant Stadium the entire day. The truck’s sign read, “Beware prayer by pious politicians. Get off your knees and get to work.” FFRF also hired an airplane to fly above the stadium trailing a banner reading, “Gov: Keep Church/State Separate.”

The parking kiosk collecting $15 from each car entering Reliant’s mostly empty parking lot slowed traffic sufficiently enough that the minivans and trucks waiting to enter the lot routinely were idled in front of the FFRF’s corner. Occasionally one of “The Response” attendees would roll down their window to offer a “God loves you” or “I’ll pray for you.” This would set off a furious rant from the FFRF’ers about God being a delusion and prayer a waste of time, leading to some very hurried rolling up of car windows.

On the corner farthest from the stadium the Lyndon LaRouche supporters and their Obama-as-Hitler poster remained largely unengaged from the other assembled rabble. One of the LaRouche supporters, who refused to be identified, said that the group was there because “it’s all the same thing, Obama, Perry, they’re all trying to take over and take away your decisions.” He added, “We have to stand up to politicians who lie to us, one’s a Muslim, the other’s a Baptist, but that won’t matter when the jackboot comes down. … The fight between the Democrats and Republicans is just a distraction from the real fight against the government taking over our lives.”

In the center of it all: Westboro Baptist Church, who spent most of the morning singing parodies of songs by Lady Gaga and Madonna (and, of course, “God Hates America”) and showing off their skill for holding four protest signs at once. Whether by their own design, or the machinations of the traffic cops, WBC’s concrete island station was positioned so that the only way to speak with them was to stand in the street. “God hates America, It’s too late for prayer!” howled one woman when asked why the group was protesting “The Response.” This reporter was then firmly told by police to get out of the street.

— Daniel Williams

 

GetEQUAL’s mock funeral procession

A block from the merry-go-round of the American Atheists, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Lyndon LaRouche supporters and Westboro Baptist Church, a more somber, if no less energetic, response to “The Response” was taking place. Organized by GetEQUAL, the event sought to give voice to people killed by the violent rhetoric of transphobia and homophobia.

The training camp for the Houston Texans sits opposite Kirby Drive from Reliant Arena, its driveway intersecting with Kirby directly in front of the main entrance. Saturdays during the summer the camp plays host to a children’s football camp. At 8 a.m. Saturday, when parents dropped their kids off at camp, a small group of a few dozen GetEQUAL activists graced the main entrance. By the time parents returned to pick their kids up in the early afternoon there were hundreds of protestors.

GetEQUAL staged several mock funerals throughout the day to represent the more than 13,000 people killed in America because of anti-LGBT bias since 1980. The funerals were complete with coffins and a New Orleans-style street band. Daniel Cates, North Texas regional coordinator for GetEQUAL, says that the band was not originally planned to be part of the protest. “They were a local group who had come to Reliant to protest ‘The Response,’” said Cates. “When they saw what we were doing, they wanted to help.”

Between funerals the GetEQUAL protestors chanted and sang. Their rousing rendition of the civil rights era classic “We Shall Overcome” drew attendees of “The Response” out of the stadium to look down from the third floor mezzanine. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” and “Pray away the hate” rang out all day, crescendo-ing as more and more protestors arrived. At one point the chant spontaneously morphed into “Show me what hypocrisy looks like” and the assembled protestors turned to point at Reliant Stadium and chant, “This is what hypocrisy looks like.”

Protesters braved temperatures that approached but never quite breached the triple-digit mark. GetEQUAL’s prime spot at the Reliant Stadium entrance also placed them in the shadow of the leviathan structure. As the afternoon wore on, many protestors who had stationed themselves at the stadium’s parking lot entrances relocated to the relative cool provided by Reliant’s shade, swelling the crowd at the entrance to what Cates called “comfortably thousands of protesters.”

Watch video from the protest below.

— Daniel Williams

 

LGBT Trailblazers Luncheon

A member of Westboro Baptist Church protests outside the LGBT Trailblazers luncheon in Houston on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Noel Freeman)

On Saturday, while Gov. Rick Perry was throwing his prayer rally “The Response” inside Reliant Stadium and GetEQUAL was staging mock funerals at the front gate, the Harris County Democratic Party sat down to a quite luncheon honoring LGBT Trailblazers. The highlight of the luncheon was the videotaped acceptance speech by Houston Mayor Annise Parker (WATCH IT BELOW). In 2009 Parker became the first out LGBT person elected mayor of a major American city after years of community service as an activist, city council member and city controller.

Parker was unable to accept her award in person due to previously scheduled city business. Via pre-recorded message she thanked the luncheon’s co-chairs, Robert Shipman and Brad Pritchett, and the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, who took the lead in organizing the event.

Parker’s son, Jonon Tyler, accepted the award on behalf of his mother. Tyler talked about the thrill of riding with Mayor Parker in the 2010 Dallas Pride Parade, about how the crowd seemed to swell with hope and pride at seeing her. “When we see Mayor Annise Parker, we see the best in ourselves,” said Tyler. “We’ve only seen the beginning; the best is yet to come.”

Also honored as LGBT Trailblazers were Judge Steven Kirkland, City Councilwoman Sue Lovell, Judge Phyllis Frye and Linda Morales. Judge John Paul Barnich received a posthumous award.

Judge Kirkland was the first out LGBT judge elected in Texas (previous out judges had all been appointed). He was self-deprecating in accepting his award. “I’d like to tell you that my ego is not so large that I believe that the over 650,000 people who voted for me went down the ballot and selected my name out and said, ‘I’m voting for Steve Kirland because he’s the best guy there,’” said Kirkland. “I got elected in 2008 because people in Harris County were voting for Democrats and they were doing that for a lot of reasons. One would be President Obama … the other would be president Bush.”

Lovell, who leaves the council this year due to term limits, warned the crowd about the need to remain supportive of out LGBT elected officials, and the dangers of in-fighting. “We must remember that the victories that we want to achieve do not come at the expense of our community,” said Lovell. “That energy, that intelligence, that organization must be taken and focused outward, to the people who are really against us.”

A small contingent from Westboro Baptist Church camped out in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel where the Trailblazers Luncheon took place. Lou Weaver, president of the Transgender Foundation of America, commented on the irony of WBC’s protest during his introduction of Frye.

“Thirty-four years ago, in 1977, Anita Bryant was in this very hotel speaking to the State Bar Association,” said Weaver. “Phyllis was outside of this hotel that day, protesting. My how times have changed! Today Phyllis is on the inside, and the forces of bigotry are on the outside.”

Frye, whom the program described as “an Eagle Scout, a former member of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, a US Army veteran, a licensed attorney, a father, and a married, lesbian wife for 38 years,” pointed out that she didn’t protest Anita Bryant on her own. Her wife Trish was by her side.

“It was so scary because we didn’t know what would happen,” said Trish Frye. “We didn’t know if they would start throwing things or arresting people, because sometimes that happened.”

Linda Morales, who in 1990 filed a lawsuit that paved the way for the eventual Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court decision striking down Texas’ sodomy law, spoke of the need for coalition building between the Hispanic and LGBT communities.

Mistress of Ceremonies Fiona Dawson eulogized the late Barnich in her presentation of his posthumous award. Dawson shared that when Judge Barnich was appointed to the Houston municipal bench he was asked during his confirmation hearing how a gay judge’s courtroom would differ from a straight one’s. Barnich, recalled Dawson, coyly replied that he would “upgrade the courtroom’s sound system in order to play showtunes.”

The final award of the evening was presented to “LGBT families for being everyday Trailblazers.” Luncheon co-chair Shipman said that “30 years ago the fight for equality was on the streets of [Houston’s historically gay neighborhood] Montrose. Today the fight is in the suburbs and it’s these families with two moms or two dads who are fighting it.”

Dawson closed the luncheon with a rousing plea for greater community involvement. “When our country is not permitting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness we have a responsibility to speak up,” she said. “If all people cared about LGBT issues, they simply would not be issues.”

— Daniel Williams

 

Interfaith prayer service

Saturday, less than 4 miles from Reliant Stadium and Gov. Rick Perry’s day of prayer and fasting, “The Response,” a prayer service of a very different nature took place. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston hosted an “Inclusive Interfaith Prayer Service” that featured an Imam, a Rabbi, a Buddhist Monk and even a Baptist Minister. A moment of silence was set aside to recognize those in attendance who didn’t believe in a higher power, and respect their beliefs.

The Rev. Dr. Daniel O’Connell, senior pastor of First UUC, opened the service by contrasting it with “The Response,” but said that the inclusive interfaith service was not about being critical of people of other faiths: “We come today not to tear down, but to lift up.”

“I come from a particular religious tradition that I cherish, but other hearts are here with hopes and dreams as true and pure as mine,” O’Connell continued, referencing the hymn “A Song of Peace.”

The service continued with a performance by the Bayou City Performing Arts Quartet (made up of members of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Houston and Bayou City Women’s Chorus) and an opening prayer by the Rev. Dr. Jeremy Rutledge, a Baptist minister.

“The Language of Peace,” an instrumental trio that includes cello, keyboard and an Indian instrument known as a “tanpura,” then performed an improvisational piece accompanied by chanting in Hindi.

Chanting was a common element in many of the rituals and prayers performed by the diverse collection of religious leaders. From Rabbi Samantha Kahn’s recitation of a Shabbat morning prayer, to Imam Kemal Civelek’s chanting of the names of God, the service centered on quiet moments of contemplation and meditation. During the “Bathing of the Baby Buddha” ritual performed by the Rev. Seido of the St. Nichiren Buddhist Temple, his rhythmic, breathy chanting filled the air as those assembled ladled water over a statue of a standing infant Buddha.

The Rev. Ellen Cooper Davis of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church spoke about her previous life as a circus performer and her current life as a minister. “Actually, the circus was good preparation for working for a church,” said Davis.

“There’s a circus in town right now, but it’s not the kind i want. … It’s the kind that they use to lure the poor people in with bread, the kind the Roman satirists wrote about ages ago,” Cooper Davis said. “They said it’s just there to distract the people so that they would be content with their bread and their circus and would not realize that the Roman empire was oppressing them. So that they would be content with just a few hours of entertainment and not realize that they were living in an empire. The kind of empire that took people who asked hard questions about how we ought to live and nailed them up onto a cross.”

The Rev. Adam Robinson, who organized the service, closed by saying: “This service is about a place at the table for everyone, those [people at “The Response”] are my people. You’re looking an an Evangelical boy here who, after many years, was ordained — then outed — and my place at the table was taken away.

“We’ve got the people out there who are united with hate groups and we don’t want to be united with them,” Robinson said. “We have to watch that — we have to watch our desire to separate ourselves from people we disagree with. It’s a fine line, but if we don’t watch that line carefully pretty soon it’s not OK to be a Unitarian, and then it’s not OK to be a Muslim or a Jew, then it’s not OK to be a progressive Christian, and then there’s only one kind of Christian people are allowed to be.”

— Daniel Williams

 

Dallas’ response

Protesters gather outside Dallas City Hall on Saturday during Rick Perry’s day of prayer in Houston.

About 25 people gathered at Dallas City Hall on Saturday to protest Gov. Rick Perry’s “The Response,” the day of prayer and fasting that was under way in Houston at the same time.

Transgender activists Pamela Curry and Kelli Ann Busey were among the protesters in Dallas, while others were from church groups or were individuals who said they believe in separation of church and state.

Among those at Dallas City Hall was Transforming Words, a Bible study group from Garland that represented several churches. “We’re here to love on ‘em and give ‘em some water,” a representative from Transforming Words said. The representative said the group didn’t necessarily support the protest but, “the AFA said some really horrible things.” He said the group particularly disliked some of the statements from AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer.

A few of the protest signs referred to anti-gay hate messages of the AFA, such as “The AFA=Anti-Gay” using the Human Rights Campaign equal sign logo, and “The AFA is anti gay. Fed up. Fight to save America from hate groups. No H8 in TX. Represent all Texans.”

Most of the signs, however, referred to separation of church and state or were specifically anti-Perry: “Blatant exclusion has no place in political office,” “Political office is not your pulpit” “Rick Perry for ex-governor” were among the messages.

Using the Bible to fight religious bigotry, one sign read, “Jesus opposes prayer rallies Matthew 6:5-14 NIV,” referring to the passage that translates as, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

— David Taffet

—  John Wright

PHOTOS: Response to ‘The Response’ begins

Riki Miller, Zombie McZee and Britney Miranda.

The responses to “The Response” are under way in Houston. First out of the gate was Friday night’s LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally.  Despite temperatures that had barely come down from the triple digits, Houstonians thronged to Tranquility Park in downtown. Beyond commenting on the temperature, the common theme of most of the speakers was that the American Family Association and Gov. Perry’s rally is not representative of Houston and is not welcomed.

Robert Shipman, president of the Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, said: “I kinda think Rick Perry chose the wrong city!”

He continued “They are the bigots, we are not … we are Houston.”

“I guess we should take comfort in the fact that, except for some of his staffers, [Gov. Perry] couldn’t find enough homegrown bigotry in the state of Texas to put on the event himself,” said Mike Craig, co-chair of Out & Equal Houston. “He had to bus them in from Tupulo, Miss., and Colorado Springs, Colo.” Craig was referring to American Family Association (based in Tupulo) and Focus on the Family (based in Colorado Springs), both co-sponsors of “The Response.”

State Rep.  Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, provided the closing address. He criticized Gov. Perry for using divisive religious rhetoric for political gain. “Being here today I’m proud that we are fighting back against a narrow, theocratic view of the world that we live in and of our country that says that people are not welcomed — that says that people are bad because of who they are. That is not America,” said Coleman. “That is what is dividing our city, our state and our country.”

Stay tuned to Instant Tea for more coverage of the LGBT community’s response to “The Response.” More photos from the LGBT Texans Against Hate Rally below (click to enlarge):

—  admin