Thursday, October 16, 2014

Houston's Intolerance Problem Is the Mayor

Houston; we have a problem. It’s the mayor, Annise Parker. She’s notable for being the first openly homosexual mayor of a major US city. The thing is, she ran, a known democrat for the nonpartisan position, as a sensible businessperson ready to rein in overspending and implement common-sense policies. She claimed to be able to clean up a number of money mismanagement areas left over from Mayor Bill White—also a democrat who had run as a businessman who cared about money management rather than liberal ideology, but who then went on to mess up the budget and follow liberal ideas like being a sanctuary city for illegal aliens.
Mayor Annise Parker, center
photo found here
So Annise Parker did not run as either a liberal or as a homosexual. In fact, I was not even aware she was a lesbian until the week before the election. And when that information came out, in the context of the rest of the campaign, it didn’t seem relevant. Houstonians didn’t elect a lesbian mayor; they elected the candidate who convinced them she would be most effective for the city.
I live a mile outside the Houston city limits, so I don’t vote in city elections (nor do I have to suffer additional city taxes). While the city leadership affects all of the Greater Houston Area, it’s less relevant when we don’t actually live in the city. There was a Republican opponent (and others), but I don’t remember who. In Houston, as in pretty nearly any urban area, getting the least liberal democrat is about the best you can hope for. So I looked on, hoping she wouldn’t be too bad.
Then, the moment she got elected, the big news was that Houston had shocked the world by not being bigoted against a lesbian in their mayoral election. Hmm. And she has been much better at pushing the LGBT agenda than getting Houston’s fiscal house in order. Practically every time she’s in the news, it has something to do with her lesbianism, rather than her caretaking of the city.
The big one this past several months has been policy purportedly for “fairness” toward transgenders. In June, she pressed a bill through the city council (so, not entirely her fault, but wouldn’t have happened without her pressure) what is referred to as the “bathroom bill.” The city created transgenders as a protected class, and one cannot do anything to “discriminate” against a protected class. In this case, transgenders get to choose which public restroom to use on any given day, depending on which gender they feel like that day. No matter how they may dress, one cannot question whether they’re inappropriately in the wrong restroom.
There’s an ick factor involved in having a six-foot-three obvious male, either dressed as a male or a female, in a women’s restroom. But it’s not so much with transgenders that the public has a problem. It’s sexual predators. No one is allowed to ask, or suspect. So if an obvious male appears in your women’s restroom, you must accept his presence or be subject to prosecution for going against the city ordinance that is intended to prevent transgenders from feeling uncomfortable (regardless of any discomfort they might make you feel). So that tells predators, “You can go into women’s restrooms and prey upon unprotected females, and no one can question your being there.”
The problem was brought before the city council and the mayor. They dismissed it as just more bigotry against LGBTs. That scenario, they claim, might never even happen.
But for some reason the public doesn’t trust them on that. Imagine you’re a dad with a 9-year-old daughter who needs to use the restroom. You let her go in, and you stand outside the door. Then, following her in is a burly, obvious male. What do you do? Follow the guy in and stand guard for your daughter? One thing you don’t do is think, “Oh, the mayor says I shouldn’t worry, so I’m sure my daughter is safe enough. I'd much rather risk my daughter's safety than risk hurting the feelings of a possibly transgender person.” The mayor is expecting the public to go against human nature. But, then, she’s not a father, and neither she nor her “spouse” can ever be.
There was a huge public outcry against the policy. Some 55,000 signatures were collected from the public in a referendum demanding repeal; only 17,269 signatures were required. The Houston City Secretary and staff counted the signatures, and when they got to 19,177, they validated the count without going on, since the threshold had already been surpassed.
But then the mayor decided to look into the validity of the signatures. Among the certified count were enough disqualified signatures (didn’t contain adequate information, or didn’t qualify as city residents) to drop the count to around 15,000. Without counting the additional 30,000+ signatures, the mayor threw out the initiative as invalid. In other words, she acted like a dictator and unlawfully overruled the people with her own dictates. Just like any other petty dictator.
A coalition was formed to sue the mayor over the issue, referred to as Woodfill v. Parker. (Lawyer Jared Woodfill was until recently the Harris County Republican Chair. He's on the legal team for the suit.)
This week the news got out that, in the city’s defense against the lawsuit (using taxpayer dollars), she has subpoenaed certain information from five area pastors. These pastors are NOT part of the lawsuit. They are, however, outspoken opponents of the mayor’s “bathroom bill,” (among 400 or so who took a stand against it) and sometimes against the mayor’s more general LGBT activism.
To be clear, in defense of a lawsuit, one can gather information from many places, including from witnesses that are not part of the lawsuit itself. Her seeking information from these particular pastors is not in itself illegal. But the overly broad request is a bit shocking: "All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO [what the Mayor calls the ordinance], the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker's homosexuality, or gender identity prepared by, delivered by, revised by, or approved by you (the Pastors) or in your possession."
What she wants to know specifically is, did the pastors, or their surrogates under their approval, request that their congregation members sign the petition? She wants to claim that this would disqualify the churches for getting involved in politics.
But that, in itself, is a misunderstanding of political participation. Churches generally (not technically prohibited by the Constitution, but by recent readings of it by SCOTUS) aren’t allowed to choose parties or candidates to support. But issues—particularly issues related to religious beliefs—are always fair game. Always! Putting abortion, or “same-sex marriage,” or various family laws, or prostitution or public nudity, or location of bars, etc., on the ballot does not place those issues out-of-bounds for churches to talk about. That would be an absurd approach to religious freedom.
But absurd is the typical approach of Mayor Annise Parker and others who think they have the only acceptable beliefs—the intolerant.
There are a couple of other absurdities here: the sermons were already offered publicly. And sermons are not necessarily written. This is similar to subpoenas made by the IRS to True the Vote and King Street Patriots—requiring they detail, in writing, every person who spoke and every word spoken at meetings—where people get together to speak their minds—not typically written out, and not expected, in most cases, to be recorded. So, is it because Parker and her people don’t have going-to-church experience? Or is it less about gathering information and more about squelching future speech? As with the IRS, it looks like the latter is intended.
Already she has backed off the original subpoena—because of pressure, and bad press. She claims she wouldn’t have worded it the way her lawyers did. (The broader elements of the subpoena have been changed to more specifics, but the subpoenas are still in process.)
She’s still defending her behavior:
·        Forcing the “bathroom bill” on the people of Houston (and anyone who works there or visits and might need a public restroom).
·        Illegally throwing out the validated signatures expressing of will of the people.
·        Defending her position, using taxpayer dollars, against the people’s will, by attacking pastors in their churches.
So, while she isn’t, at this point, “monitoring” churches to make sure they don’t say anything she doesn’t like, we can probably assume she’s bigoted enough against religious people (or anyone who disagrees with her) to quash religious speech is she could. Ironically, she does it in the name of tolerance.

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