Religious-right activists in Houston have failed miserably in their efforts to undermine the city’s mayor, Annise Parker. They relentlessly attacked Parker during her successful mayoral election campaign in 2009 and re-election in 2011. In 2009, for example, they argued that the election of a lesbian mayor would lead to a “gay takeover” of City Hall and would be “destructive to the family.” They have called her a “sodomite,” complained about “moral perversion and sin flowing from city hall,” and charged that Parker is imposing a “‘San Francisco Style’ Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, etc. agenda” on Houston. And now they’re attacking the mayor for exercising her right to free speech.
A megachurch pastor, Steve Riggle of Houston’s Grace Community Church, has publicly released a letter to Mayor Parker calling on her to resign if she doesn’t agree to stop speaking out in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples. Noting that Texans have approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, Riggle says “it is very disturbing to me when you make statements as an elected official that are contrary to what the people have decided should be the foundational values and definitions that define our culture.” He also criticizes the mayor for referring to her life partner of 21 years as Houston’s “first lady”:
“I was deeply disturbed some months ago when a memo was circulated by an office connected to your office that titled your partner as the first lady of Houston. 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.”
Parker is standing her ground. From the Houston Chronicle:
“I do my duty to uphold the state Constitution and the U.S. Constitution. I swore an oath to that. I take that oath very seriously, but I have my First Amendment rights to free speech. We all have the right to do that and I’m sorry that they (Riggle and his supporters) don’t understand the Constitution.”
She’s absolutely right. And most Houston voters apparently don’t have a problem with Mayor Parker referring to her partner as the city’s “first lady” — they re-elected her. But you can bet religious-righters in Houston will continue their hate campaign anyway — it seems to have become their overriding obsession.