Amid the recent headlines of major crises – ISIS, Ebola, illegal immigration, etc. – a controversy in Texas went largely unnoticed outside the Lone Star State.
Back in the spring, Houston’s openly gay mayor, Annise Parker, enacted via ordinance a measure dubbed the “bathroom bill” that gave the government new power, under threat of fines, to force private individuals and businesses to accept transgender residents using restrooms consistent with their gender expression.
The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) applies to businesses that serve the public, private employers, housing, city employment, and city contracting. And it allows transgendered persons to sue businesses that prohibit use of their preferred bathroom.
Aside from their very real angst concerning the dangers such an ordinance could pose in terms of easier access for sexual predators, a large number of Houstonians, religious and non-religious alike, felt threatened by the escalating and overreaching barrage of social and now absurdly legal opposition to their way of life. And it galvanized them into action.
Anxious citizens and clergy collected over 50,000 signatures to repeal the ordinance in the month following the measure’s passage in the City Council. This was an astounding leap past the required minimum threshold of 17,269 signatures from registered Houston voters.
One might have thought the farce would have ended there, but the city attorney invalidated most of the signatures and threw out the petitions. The mayor then subpoenaed local pastors who were vocal in the fight against the ordinance, requiring “All speeches, presentations, or sermons related to HERO, the Petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity.”
This flagrant infringement on free speech and religious liberty was so outrageous that the ACLU issued a statement asking Mayor Parker to reconsider the subpoenas. Right-leaning politicians and spokespeople, including Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, urged the people of Houston to take up the fight, and many heeded Huckabee’s call to bombard city offices with Bibles and sermons. After the mayor’s office was flooded with more than a thousand Bibles, Parker finally waved the white flag and withdrew the controversial subpoenas.
Satisfaction at this point would be premature, though. The ordinance awaits repeal, the battle looms, and questions remain.
After all, though Houston voters had twice, in 1985 and 2001, rejected protections or benefits for gays at the ballot box, the City Council still passed the “bathroom bill” in an 11-6 vote. And with the mayor vowing to fight efforts to overturn the ordinance, the big question really is, How did an openly gay woman win the mayoralty of the most populous city of a state as red as Texas?
These issues need to be examined in the context of the greater push by agenda-seeking minority subgroups in America and the hold they have over the majority. Through intimidation, harassment, and media and academic indoctrination, agendas pushed by leftists routinely manage to triumph over majority sentiment, constitutional precedent, and just plain common sense to become law.
From Obamacare to Common Core to gay marriage, radical agendas are pushed through the legal system against the wishes of America’s majority of moderates and conservatives. This leaves Americans who value the Judeo-Christian beliefs on which the country was founded increasingly on the defensive and compelled to apologize for a traditional way of life.
The Machiavellian methods used by many leftists to achieve their ends often go unchallenged. In addition to the initial fiasco of the “bathroom bill” itself, Parker ignored obvious breaches of religious and constitutional rights in the apparent belief that the right to free speech is only a right if that speech conforms to hers.
No one on the left seemed to care, however. But for the likelihood that the mayor’s subpoena would be overturned in the courts, it’s doubtful the ACLU would have intervened. Certainly if a mayor of a large city subpoenaed an Islamic cleric to hand over the sermons he preached in a mosque the story would make headlines and elicit outraged responses in every newspaper and on every news program throughout the country.
The lessons of the “bathroom bill” debacle are many, but the concurrent timing of Mayor Parker’s withdrawal of the subpoenas with the midterm elections should not be wasted on Americans eager to rebalance the social/cultural/political pendulum from its leftward swing. Houstonians who shuddered at the brazen violation of their rights learned that borrowing pages from the leftist playbook sometimes pays off. Saul Alinsky-style “rules” that work for “radicals” can work just as well for community organizers on the other side of the fence.
This heartening effort of average citizens – with virtually no access to the nation’s elite media outlets – who managed to gather upward of 50,000 signatures in only 30 days to reject a radical ordinance and force a mayor to withdraw her subpoenas was a precursor to the sweeping Republican midterm victories.
The anti-“bathroom bill” campaign in Houston and the historic drubbing Democrats experienced across the country signal a repudiation of progressive policies. Americans set on stemming the country’s downward spiral should note the parallel occurrences and take heart.
Despite or maybe because of his bruising rejection last week, President Obama still seems determined to pursue a radical itinerary, particularly on issues of immigration and the economy. Americans heartened by the triumphs in Houston and the midterm elections should work to augment those wins by galvanizing their political troops to continue battling the threats from our federal government and its cohorts in the media.
America is not out of the woods simply because there will be a changing of the congressional guard, and Americans need to remain vigilant in protecting the country’s freedoms.