Faith leaders unite to support LGBTQ Texans
Wednesday, faith leaders gathered at the Texas State Capitol to show their love and support for the LGBTQ community.
Texas Believes, a grassroots group of clergy, says their mission is to make sure LGBTQ Texans are able to live their daily lives with the same rights as everybody else.
Religious leaders from an array of denominations wore colorful stoles around their necks and held signs of support in their hands.
"Sadly the voices that most people hear from the faith community are voices of judgment and condemnation. We are here to represent another voice of welcome and courage and inclusion," said Reverend Karen Thompson of Metropolitan Community Church-Austin. Thompson said their church congregation is 95 percent LGBTQ.
"We are all children of God and we are all welcome," said John Elford, senior pastor at University United Methodist Church in Austin. "I'm part of a congregation that's completely open and welcoming to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons," Elford said.
Silently pastors prayed for the state leaders who will decide which bills become law.
"They are presenting the bills as legislation that's protecting women and children or protecting religious freedom, and in their own minds perhaps that's how they see the bills, but I hope they also see how hurtful these bills are towards people. It just continues to push a group that's already marginalized further into the margins and shadows," Elford said.
One bill scheduled for testimony Wednesday, HB 1813, could exempt county clerks from signing their names on same-sex marriage licenses if they do not agree with same-sex marriage for religious reasons. The bill's author, Dan Flynn of East Texas, said he was not available for an interview but did say in a statement:
"HB 1813 centralizes on the protection of county clerks in Texas by allowing any county clerk, judge, or magistrate in the county to sign a marriage license in the case that a clerk chooses to defer this request to someone else; and to assert religious reasons for opting out of a marriage ceremony request." -Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van)
However, clergy uniting in a quest for equality see things differently.
"You are hearing it from our State House… our state leaders. You're hearing that, 'You're less than. You're other. You're not quite worthy,'" said Thompson.
Texas Believes said about two dozen "anti-LGBTQ" bills were filed this session. Wednesday the group delivered a letter to House and Senate offices signed by more than 200 Texas faith leaders opposed to the legislation.