The Week in Quotes (Feb. 15 – 21)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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VIDEO: Rev. Leslie Jackson at Faith Advocacy Day

This video is of Rev. Leslie Jackson of United Church of Christ in Houston. Rev. Jackson was one of the featured speakers at Faith Advocacy Day, a gathering at the Texas Capitol of people of faith and faith leaders who support full equality for LGBT Texans. A transcript of his remarks can be found below.

We are here today to assert that our faith does not undermine LGBT Equality in the state of Texas, it supports it. LGBT Equality is not a distant cousin to faith, it is its progeny. Our advocacy and relentless pursuit of equality in this state, is a call that joins in the tradition of civil rights leaders and all those who have sought to create a better society for all citizens. We join our voices with all those throughout history who have cried: “We demand equality!”

Equality is righteous, it is justice, and it is God in action. We oppose the use of power to discriminate against our neighbors, friends, and family. We will not stand for it, we won’t sit for it, we won’t roll over and play dead, nor will we be complicit in such sinfulness. Instead, we will work to extinguish the sinful flame of discrimination. Together…

We demand equality!

Today, we stand, on the precipice of a new and holy moment in this nation – a moment where the fundamental civil right to marry whom you love will be extended to all citizens. Many of us here today have taught, preached and affirmed the righteousness of marriage equality for many years. And we are prepared to continue this refrain until love wins the day and marriage equality is the law of the land in this state and every state. Together…

We demand equality!

But it’s not just marriage that brings us to the Capitol steps. We also say no one should be turned away from a job or denied a place to live just because of who they are. Surely all of our diverse faith traditions and differing beliefs can come together around this simple value: having a roof over your head and keeping a job should not be based on what you look like or who you love. Together…

We demand equality!

As religious leaders, we strongly affirm that religious freedom for all is a fundamental American value, a heritage that has been a great gift to both the church and state in this country. But let us be clear: treating our LGBT brothers and sisters differently based on who they are is not religious freedom – it is discrimination. Together…

We demand equality!

This day, we gather, as faith leaders, and we raise our voices so those entrusted with the power to make laws will know that Methodists, Jews, Baptists, Sikhs, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Episcopalians and leaders of religious communities across Texas demand that each and every person in this state be treated fairly, equally and with respect. Together…

We demand equality!

And though we speak out of our personal religious convictions, we welcome all people of goodwill to join us in this commitment to create the beloved community in which everyone flourishes. We invite you to join us in this call to acknowledge the worth and dignity of all families under the law and to stand against discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
If this is your vision of the beloved community, join with us now as we all say:

We demand equality!

Again

We demand equality!

Now, let it resound loud as the rolling thunder, again…

We demand equality!

And so it is! Amen!

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 3 Comments

Faith Leaders Speak Out for LGBT Equality in Texas

FaithLeaders_LGBTequalityHundreds of clergy and other faith leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian and Jewish congregations gathered today at the Texas Capitol to speak out for LGBT equality. The Texas Freedom Network co-sponsored the event with Equality Texas. Here’s the press release we sent out:

FAITH LEADERS CALL FOR EQUALITY FOR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER TEXANS

Discrimination Should Be Unacceptable to People of Faith, Speakers Tell Crowd at Texas Capitol

With political battles over marriage and nondiscrimination measures heating up, hundreds of clergy and other people of faith gathered at the Texas Capitol today to call on lawmakers to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Speaking at an event on the Capitol steps, the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas noted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of his own congregation.

“The idea that any of them might be discriminated against under state or local laws is absolutely unacceptable,” Folkerth said. “Not only is this unacceptable to me as a minister of the Gospel, but it’s unacceptable to straight members of my congregation, who cannot fathom why any community in Texas would discriminate against LGBT people.”

United Church of Christ minister Leslie Jackson of Houston called on Texans to embrace marriage equality for LGBT people and oppose discrimination in employment and housing.

“No one should be turned away from a job or denied a place to live just because of who they are,” Jackson said at the Capitol event. “Surely all of our diverse faith traditions and differing beliefs can come together around this simple value: having a roof over your head and keeping a job should not be based on what you look like or who you love.”

The Rev. Michael Diaz of Resurrection MCC of Houston echoed his colleagues.

“Like the majority of people across this great state, we believe our religious faith should lead us to anti-discriminatory love, not unjust discriminatory laws and practices,” Diaz said. “No one’s religious beliefs should trump the civil rights of another.”

Following the event on the Capitol steps, advocates representing scores of congregations from around the state dispersed throughout the Capitol, visiting legislative offices to spread the message of support for LGBT equality.

Lawmakers this session are considering measures that would, among other things, bar state contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and open the door to marriage equality for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, legislators are also considering measures that would gut local nondiscrimination ordinances. For example, proposed constitutional amendments – SJR 10 and HJR 55 – would allow individuals and businesses to ignore almost any laws, including nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, for religious reasons.

In addition, HB 623 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would strip salary and benefits from any public employee who complies with a future court decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Speakers at the Capitol event urged people of faith to visit TexasBelieves.org to sign up in support of LGBT equality and against discriminatory laws.

Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network are co-sponsors of Faith Advocacy Day. Advocates were joined by a large group of representatives from the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry as well as leaders from Texas Catholics for Inclusion.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 2 Comments

The Constitution or ‘God’s Law’?

Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore declared that he will continue to reject any federal court rulings that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Why? God’s law (as he interprets it) trumps everything:

“This power over marriage, which came from God under our organic law, is not to be redefined by the United States Supreme Court or any federal court.”

Moore clearly has the same disregard for separation of church and state that other religious-righters do. Consider, for example, similar arguments made by David Barton — head of Texas-based WallBuilders and something like the propaganda minister for the religious right in America — against same-sex marriage:

“From a constitutional standpoint, you cannot exclude morals. A number of conservative libertarians in recent months have been saying ‘hey, marriage is not a constitutional issue’ … yet it is because Article 7 of the Constitutional through the attestation clause incorporates the Declaration [of Independence] into the Constitution.

The Declaration erects the moral standard by talking about the laws of nature and of nature’s god.  Marriage has always been defined not only as a law of nature – now, it’s not necessarily in nature, but they called it a natural law that you should be married to one man, one woman because that is what divine law says; the laws of the god who created nature, the law of nature’s god even in the very beginning said one man, one woman, this is good. Jesus reiterated that in Matthew 19 and other places.

So the moral standard, the moral law dictates that marriage is between and man and a woman.  That was then incorporated into the Constitution in the Seventh Amendment in what was called the common law. The common law is part of the legal process. And if you look at the common law all the way through time, marriage has been part of the common that.  That is why you do not allow bigamy or polygamy or other forms of ‘igamy’ that attack marriage.  Marriage is a man and a woman as part of the common law that’s part of the Constitution.”

Our friends at Right Wing Watch summarize Barton’s argument:

“As Barton sees it, the 7th Amendment’s language regarding ‘in suits at common law’ means that the Constitution incorporates all of natural law into our legal system, and since common law is based on God’s law, our entire system of government is really based on God’s law.  And thus gay marriage can never be constitutional because it is a violation of God’s law.”

Well, David, that’s not how it works. No matter how much you try to distort history, our nation’s founders very deliberately wrote a Constitution that did not favor any particular religion or its specific teachings. The Constitution protects the rights of all Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs (if any) and regardless of whether they live in Texas, in Alabama or in any other part of the United States.

History and the world today are full of examples of the negative consequences of putting government in the business of declaring which religious beliefs dictate the civil laws that everyone must obey. People like David Barton and Roy Moore have refused to learn that lesson.

Posted in church and state, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Trust. Respect. Access.

TRA_imageLast Thursday the Texas Freedom Network joined with six other organizations in launching a multi-year campaign for reproductive health care in Texas: Trust. Respect. Access. Here’s the press release we sent out:

Coalition of Seven Organizations Launches Reproductive Health Care Campaign in Texas

AUSTIN – At a press conference today, a coalition of seven organizations launched a multi-year campaign, Trust. Respect. Access., to promote policies that restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals’ judgment, and access to the full range of reproductive health care. The coalition includes: ACLU of Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Research Institute, and Whole Woman’s Health.

In their remarks on coalition-endorsed legislation, State Reps. Mary González, Donna Howard, and Jessica Farrar highlighted how their proposals would further the coalition’s initiative. Dinorah Martinez, a community health worker in the Rio Grande Valley, addressed the profound barriers to reproductive health care access, and spoke of ways Texans are mobilizing around reproductive justice concerns.

Fatimah Gifford, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Whole Woman’s Health:
“We’ve seen firsthand the devastating consequences of restrictive policies affecting reproductive health care, including contraception and abortion access. As a result, the state has shuttered dozens of clinics across the state, making access out of reach for thousands of Texans. Today we come together, as a unified coalition, to continue the momentum that emerged during the 2013 legislative session.”

State Rep. Mary González: House Bill 78, House Bill 468
“Legislators who supported HB 2 in 2013 said then that they wanted a serious discussion about sex education and how to lower the number of unintended pregnancies in a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation. It’s time to find out whether those promises were empty words or if our colleagues really understand that Texas won’t have fewer unintended pregnancies simply by making it harder for women to access safe, legal abortion care. We have to trust young people with the knowledge they need to make the important health care decisions they face, and we have to respect teenagers who are already mothers to consent to birth control. I can’t think of any reason why this Legislature wouldn’t pass these common sense bills.”

State Rep. Donna Howard: House Bill 1210
“The medical exam room is a unique private space that should be safe from political intrusion. HB 1210 creates a standard for Texas that says our state will not force health care providers to choose between violating their medical training and ethical obligations or violating the law. HB 1210 would keep medical care—including advice about birth control, mammograms, cancer screenings—between a woman and her doctor.”

State Rep. Jessica Farrar: House Bill 709
“Like the HB2 restrictions, the mandatory waiting period impedes rather than improves reproductive health care. The Legislature should focus on ways to improve access to health care and respect Texans’ medical decision-making. As research has shown, rather than changing minds, the mandatory waiting period imposes a physical hardship and can be cost prohibitive.”

Dinorah Martinez, NLIRH TX LAN Field Coordinator and Community Health Worker/Promotora :
“From church meetings, to community health fairs, and even to the state capitol itself – we are organizing and mobilizing Latinas across Texas to lift their voices and fight for the human right to health care, including reproductive health care.”

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The Week in Quotes (Feb. 8 – 14)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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While the Right Wants Government to Discriminate, People of Faith Are Taking a Stand for Equality

Much of the opposition to the move toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people has been focused on the right of individuals and businesses to use religion to discriminate. As troubling as that is, we’re also seeing politicians work to ensure that government takes a proactive role in discriminating against LGBT people.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, for example, has proposed the so-called “State Marriage Defense Act of 2015.” New Civil Rights Movement explains what Sen. Cruz’s bill does:

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz is pushing the State Marriage Defense Act, legislation that if signed into law could accomplish two objectives. First, redefine marriage at the federal level to remove from hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples the federal government’s recognition of their marriages, and thus, any corresponding federal benefits they are afforded, now or in the future. And second, should the U.S. Supreme Court not find a right to marriage for same-sex couples, encourage states that do not wish to recognize those marriages to potentially nullify them.

In short, Sen. Cruz wants the federal government to actively discriminate against legally married couples if they happen to live in a state where their union isn’t legally recognized. It wouldn’t matter that they were legally married in another state.

U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, a Houston-area Republican, is sponsoring the bill in the House of Representatives.

But Texas politicians aren’t the only ones who want government to take an active role in discriminating. Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas, this week signed an executive order ending discrimination protections for state employees who are LGBT.

Brownback in essence is telling supervisors in state offices across Kansas that they can fire, demote, harass or otherwise discriminate against employees — or refuse to hire them in the first place — just because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. So public employees in Kansas who have been open about their sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in the eight years when the anti-discrimination protections were in place in their state could now be tossed out of their jobs by a supervisor.

And, of course, the Texas Legislature this session will consider bills that would gut anti-discrimination protections passed by local governments anywhere in the state.

On Tuesday, February 17, clergy and faith leaders from across Texas will come to the Capitol in Austin to speak out for LGBT equality. They and other supporters will gather on the north steps of the Texas Capitol at 1 p.m. that day for a brief public event demonstrating the broad and deep support for equality in the faith communities of this state. Please join the gathering and stand in support of fairness and equality in Texas.

Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Dragging Public Schools into the Abortion Wars

Reproductive health care in Texas, including abortion care and access to birth control and family planning services, has been under constant attack in Texas. Now politicians are trying to drag our public schools into the abortion wars.

At least three proposed bills in the current Texas legislative session focus on abortion and public school classrooms.

House Bill 205 by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, and Senate Bill 477 by state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would bar an entity or individual that performs abortions or an affiliate of an entity or individual that performs abortions from providing sex education information to public schools. That this legislation is really directed at Planned Parenthood, which provides effective sex education courses and instructional materials, is hardly a secret.

Leach proposed similar legislation in 2013, although his bill two years ago (which failed to pass) would have also required schools to get prior permission from parents before allowing their children to attend any sex education class. HB 205 this year doesn’t include that provision. (Parents already have the right to keep their children out of sex education classes.) But the new bill still has the state dictating to local school districts rules they must follow on sex education, regardless of what school board members and parents in those communities want. (This is another case, of course, of state lawmakers who claim to support local control — until they don’t.)

Another bill this session, House Bill 1218 by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would require sex education classes to teach students that “life begins at conception.”

Current state law already requires doctors to lie to women seeking abortion care by telling them things that aren’t supported by medical research and facts, such as that abortion is supposedly linked to breast cancer. (The American Cancer Society makes it clear that this is not true: “At this time, the scientific evidence does not support the notion that abortion of any kind raises the risk of breast cancer or any other type of cancer.”) Now Rep. Capriglione wants public school to teach students other anti-abortion propaganda as fact.

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An Invitation and a Word on Alabama

 

What: Faith Advocacy Day
When: Feb. 17, 1pm (begin gathering at 12:45pm)
Where: North steps of the Capitol in Austin

Same-sex marriage became legal in Alabama this morning, the 37th state where such is the case.

Overnight many of the headlines have centered around Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who has ordered the state’s probate judges to defy a federal court order by continuing to uphold Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriages. Some probate judges are siding with Moore. Still, as we type, committed same-sex couples are marrying all over Alabama.

For now, let’s not focus on Moore. Instead, let’s focus on the positive and say a quick word about Rev. Dr. Ellin Jimmerson, and we’d also like to extend an invitation to you.

Jimmerson, a 63-year-old Baptist pastor from Huntsville, told the Los Angeles Times that she sees same-sex marriage as part of the civil rights struggle and was scheduled to perform a same-sex wedding this morning. Per the Times:

“I grew up in the civil rights movement; my parents were civil rights activists. I’m white in the Deep South, and it just seemed segregation and racism were just so a part of our DNA that we could never get past it. If we’ve learned nothing else, we’ve learned that legislation can actually help people to move on past their fears and prejudices and insecurities.”

People of faith and faith leaders do support same-sex marriage, and they see full equality and basic principles of fairness as being fully congruent with their faith and faith traditions.

To that end, TFN and our partners at Equality Texas would like to invite faith leaders and lay people from all over Texas to converge in Austin to speak out for LGBTQ equality.

As a part of their day-long schedule, we will gather on the north steps of the Capitol at 1 p.m. for a brief public event demonstrating the broad and deep support for equality in the faith communities of this state. If you’re not a person of faith but support equality, the invitation is also extended to you and would be glad to have you stand with us on the north steps of the Capitol. All are welcome.

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The Week in Quotes (Feb. 1 – 7)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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