Faced with a gathering of anti-gay groups gathering this weekend to voice their opposition to equal rights for gays, GLBT community leaders are holding a rally of their own.
The goal of the “LGBT Texans against Hate” event, which will be held this Friday evening, is to show solidarity among various gay- and gay-friendly groups, as well as to educate attendees about the need for equality in American society. The rally is in response to a Christian prayer event organized by the anti-gay American Family Association and Westboro Baptist Church. Both are recognized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently voiced his opposition to gay marriage, is expected to attend the event.
“The primary existence of AFA is to demonize GLBT Americans and oppose equality.” said Houston GLBT Political Caucus president Noel Freeman. “This is a group that refers to us as Nazis, claims the Holocaust was caused by the GLBT community, and supports the eradication of people living with HIV. There is no place in Houston, in Texas or in our great nation for hate.”
The “Texans Against Hate” event will take place from 7-9 p.m. in Tranquility Park, at Smith and Walker streets. The Houston GLBT Political Caucus will be joined by other local, state and national organizations, including the GLBT Community Center, Equality Texas, Houston Stonewall Young Democrats, Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Human Rights Campaign, Healing Out Loud, and Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church. State Representative Garnet Coleman, an open supporter of the GLBT community, will be the keynote speaker at the event. All GLBT people and their allies are invited to attend.
“This is about our community coming together and saying hate is not acceptable in Houston,” said event organizer Bryan Hlavinka. “We hope some people who are coming here from out of town (to protest the event) will join us.”
The temperature at the outdoor event is expected to be in the 90s, so attendees are encouraged to dress comfortably and drink plenty of water before and during the rally. Sensitive persons should wear plenty of sunscreen and use coverings such as hats and umbrellas.
Hlavinka stressed that the event is not against people who pray or their religions, but against people who use hate speech against GLBT people. He said the event will begin with an invocation by a member of the RMCC clergy.
Coleman said the religious groups meeting are not focusing on their proclaimed belief that homosexuality is a sin, which is an action which is separate from the people who are gay, but on their hatred of gay people themselves. This difference, he said, shows that the people who are holding the prayer event are engaging in “situational ethics” by not obeying one of the main tenets of Christianity, which is that people should love one another.
“I have great faith and not just religion,” Coleman said, “but my faith supports my advocacy. Situational ethics is a problem, because you have (ethics) or not; it’s not selective based on the circumstances.”