On the surface, many people see it as the "bathroom issue"... business owners oppose the ordinance because of its language on gender identity. It would permit men and women to use whatever public bathroom they choose. As one business owner explained, "[The law] imposes criminal fines and penalties on me, the business owner, if I don't allow a person of one gender to go into the other person's bathroom." Would you want your adolescent daughter to be forced to share a public bathroom with a man who "identifies" as a woman?
The proposed ordinance is already affecting the practices of many businesses in the Houston area. Photographers and bakers know they are at risk of violating the law, and suffering the legal consequences, should they not want to bake a wedding cake or take wedding photos, based on their religious beliefs. So, many are altering their business model and vacating the wedding market.
It's important to remember that in May 2014, the Houston City Council originally approved the ordinance. A coalition of evangelical pastors then organized a signature drive to place the measure on the ballot. After the mayor rejected their signatures, the pastors sued the city, prompting the mayor to subpoena five pastors' sermons. We know the underlying threat there... the loss of their 501(c)3 status. The Texas Supreme Court eventually sided with the pastors and agreed to put the issue before the voters. I'm sure you would not be surprised to know that national and local LGBT activists have raised close to $3 million to persuade voters to approve the ordinance. And they say there is no political agenda....
But, for once, the Faithful who still adhere to Biblical primacy are standing their ground. And it is not just white, protestant evangelicals that oppose the ordinance. Pastor Hernan Castaño is the director of Hispanic church development for the Houston Area Pastors Council. He is also the Houston director of the Rivers of Oil Bible Institute, and the founding pastor of the Iglesias Rios De Aceite located in Houston. Castaño was born in Columbia and migrated with his parents to America when he was five months old. He feels that history is repeating itself for him and his congregation, many of whom immigrated from countries known for oppressive regimes. "The dream of coming to America, of being an American citizen and having a business and the freedom to make your choices, of religious freedom -- it's truly in danger," he said. "And people see this as a repetition of what happened in their countries, when it all started, and they are concerned and they're praying."
The baker and the photographer have the same concerns. Baker Jesus Guerrero manages a Houston bakery and said the proposed ordinance would collide with his Christian beliefs. "If we don't feel comfortable doing something, we shouldn't be forced to make a wedding cake ... I want to have my freedom of choice to do what is Biblical and that is eroding away."
Historically, Houston's registered voters don't turn out to vote on local issues, but the stakes surrounding this one may just change their minds. So it will be interesting to see what happens at the polls today, and if Houston will remain the last major city in the country without a non-discrimination law. The LGBT agenda has been successful in passing over 200 such ordinances across the country -- providing protection for sexual minorities, while quietly stripping away protections for people of faith. One thing is for certain; Houston is a battleground and "Ground Zero" for the fight between sexual liberty and religious liberty. May God's Will be done!
Galatians 5:1 "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery."