On Thursday, the day before America celebrated 238 years of independence, religious-right groups submitted petition signatures to put repeal of Houston’s recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) on the November ballot.

HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Opponents have focused almost exclusively on protecting their right to discriminate against LGBT people.

Those discrimination supporters now say they have collected 50,000 signatures in their petition drive, more than the approximately 17,000 required to put HERO’s repeal up for a vote. City officials must now verify that those signatures are from registered voters who actually live in Houston.

The total number of petition signatures, supposedly collected over the past 30 days, must have been a bit disappointing for referendum supporters. Anti-gay groups claimed in May that people had sent more than 110,000 email messages opposed to HERO’s passage. That the number of signatures on the repeal petition is less than half that total suggests that a significant number of those emails came from a folks outside Houston. That’s not too surprising since some of the folks who testified against the ordinance in public hearings last spring were forced to admit that they didn’t even live in the… Read More

Fifty years ago today, President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That landmark legislation bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Its enactment came after decades of struggle by civil rights advocates in the face of virulent opposition — opposition that often resorted to brutality and even murder.

President Johnson didn’t sweep away bigotry and discrimination with the simple stroke of his pen on July 2, 1964. But his signature marked a key moment when the United States truly began to fulfill the promise of equality for all under the law.

Right-wing politicians and activists have spent decades trying to rewrite the history of the struggle for civil and equal rights in this country. One of those political activists — as we explain here and here — has been David Barton, the right’s favorite phony historian and head of Texas-based WallBuilders, which argues that separation of church and state is a myth. Barton has argued that conservatives — Republicans, in particular — were the real champions of civil rights.

It is absolutely true that white southern Democratic senators successfully led efforts to kill civil rights legislation for decades. But Barton ignores the… Read More

An email from the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council today calls on pastors “to serve as the turning point in the anti-family tide” by using their churches this Sunday to collect signatures for a referendum overturning the city’s recently passed Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). From the email:

Pastors, that is a reminder that we can gather signatures ONE MORE SUNDAY so please pull out all the stops one last time! I urge you to have qualified voters with petitions at your doors before and after services as well as the tables set up in each main entrance with strong pulpit promotion again

We can truly say that like the “Walker, Texas Ranger” theme song, “The eyes of Texas are upon you!” The state is watching us and in fact the nation is watching us to see if the LGBT movement chalks up another victory at the expense of all this is good, decent and right according to the Word of God…

…or whether the pastors, congregations and citizens of Houston will serve as the turning point in the anti-family tide by stopping this HERE and NOW.

Houston’s City Council passed the Equal Rights Ordinance on… Read More

The Houston City Council, by a vote of 11-6, has just passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which bars discrimination based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and military status, among other characteristics, in employment, housing and public accommodations. Houston now joins Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso in adopting such broad civil rights protections for all.

Passage of the HERO came despite a divisive and deceitful campaign by religious-right groups and activists to stop it. That campaign promoted fear, myths, distortions and even personal attacks against Mayor Annise Parker. Opponents denounced LGBT people as evil and shamefully claimed the ordinance would allow sexual predators into women’s restrooms. They also argued that the ordinance threatens their religious freedom — the freedom, that is, to discriminate against people they don’t like. At one point a Houston pastor who opposed the HERO even insisted that religious freedom allows a businessperson or anyone else to discriminate against anyone, including Jews as well as LGBT people.

In the end, however, a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, including Equality Texas, Texans Together, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Freedom Network, working behind the courageous leadership of Mayor… Read More

The vote on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is scheduled to take place in Houston City Council chambers some time today. The ERO would simply prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, gender, religion, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and a number of other protected characteristics . But from the moment the ordinance was proposed, the religious right has been rallying opposition with a series of scare tactics and misrepresentations about what the ordinance will do.

On Tuesday, for example, we came across a video featuring Pastor Michael Amador of New Beginnings Church in Houston from earlier this month. Branded with the logos of the far-right group Houston Area Pastors Council/Texas Pastors Council, Amador’s video urged ordinance opponents to attend the May 13 City Council meeting and speak against the measure. Amador explains in the video what he believes is driving the measure — suggesting, in essence, that supporters of the measure, including the mayor and council members, are also supporters of the devil.

The video can be seen below. Here’s a translation:

“We are living in end times, when many will come against our faith, against evangelism and against Christians. Now, we are confronting something very serious. The mayor of Houston wants to… Read More