As our society slowly moves toward treating LGBT people with the dignity and equality all human beings deserve, the reaction of religious-right groups has been almost unhinged. Their leaders have adopted increasingly vitriolic and hateful rhetoric in their desperate attempts to defend discrimination. That fact has been on clear display as the Houston City Council’s Committee on Quality of Life prepared to hold a public hearing today (Wednesday, April 30) on a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Equal Rights Ordinance, proposed by Mayor Annise Parker, would bar discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, race, religion, military status and other characteristics. The measure includes exemptions for religious organizations (like churches), private clubs and organizations, and small businesses.

The proposed ordinance is so mainstream that the Greater Houston Partnership — a major regional business group that promotes economic development in the region — has endorsed it. From the Partnership’s website:

“The Partnership believes that Houston is already a great city that is welcoming and embraces diversity. Adopting the ordinance now is essentially a reaffirmation of who we are and what we believe: that all Houstonians should be able to live, work and enjoy our great city.”… Read More

In February we told you about Conservative Republicans for Texas, a right-wing political action committee run by Houston physician Steven Hotze. Hotze has been a prominent religious-right leader in Houston for decades; in fact, one of the most extreme and vicious. His activist resume includes especially venomous and vile anti-gay campaigns, including against the city’s current mayor.

But the LGBT community hasn’t been the only target of Hotze’s vitriolic attacks over the years. The Houston Press this week has a fascinating piece about Hotze’s war on the Texas Medical Board and its first female president. That war apparently was precipitated by the board’s desire to crack down on bad doctors, including one the board thought was injecting his patients with some weird concoction derived from diesel fumes and jet fuel. That doctor claimed he was a victim of the board’s persecution. There have been others, the Houston Press reports:

There’s the poor, innocent neuropath who found himself in the medical board’s crosshairs just because he left an anesthetized patient with an open surgical site in the operating room for 12 minutes without an attending physician while he hit the cafeteria chow line. There’s the ob-gyn who told… Read More

Conservative Republicans for Texas, a political action committee run by a longtime religious-right activist in Houston, has released its list of endorsements for the March 4 Republican primary in Texas.  A mailer sent to Texas voters age 65 and older lists the group’s endorsements. Most of the names aren’t a surprise — especially when you see where CRT has gotten much of its money in this election cycle.

Steven Hotze, who runs CRT, is a Houston physician with a long history of religious-right and anti-gay activism. We won’t list all of his group’s favorite candidates. (Click here to see part of the group’s endorsement mailer: ConsRepOfTexasMailer_2.2014.) But one of the candidates the group endorses is Barry Smitherman, a member of the Texas Railroad Commission who is running to replace Greg Abbott as the state’s attorney general.

Smitherman has become known for his extremist positions on a host of issues. Last October, for example, he defended white supremacist and other extremist organizations identified as hate groups by the respected Southern Poverty Law Center. (Smitherman thought the SPLC was unfairly criticizing the groups, which he lumped in with what he called “patriot, mormon, and judeo-christian religious groups.”) 

It really was only a matter of time. For months the Houston mayoral election focused on issues important to most working families in the city -- issues like crime, transportation and economic development. Oh sure, there were occasional subtle references by far-right political activists to the fact that candidate Annise Parker, the current city controller, is a lesbian. But an organized anti-gay smear campaign didn't develop. That is, it didn't develop apparently until now, with Parker facing former city attorney Gene Locke in a runoff election on Dec. 12. According to the Houston Chronicle this weekend:

A cluster of socially conservative Houstonians is planning a campaign to discourage voters from choosing City Controller Annise Parker in the December mayoral runoff because she is a lesbian, according to multiple ministers and conservatives involved in the effort.

The group is motivated by concerns about a “gay takeover” of City Hall, given that two other candidates in the five remaining City Council races are also openly gay, as well as national interest driven by the possibility that Houston could become the first major U.S. city to elect an openly gay woman.… Read More