An association of African-American Baptist ministers apologized Thursday, Aug. 23 for its role in the campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) in 2015.
The Baptists Ministers Association of Houston & Vicinity issued a joint statement with the Houston GLBT Political Caucus saying the two groups “are building a relationship that recognizes our common equal rights struggle.”
The joint statement follows a controversy earlier this year in which the Caucus faced criticism from some members for allegedly encouraging candidates to seek endorsements from the Baptists Ministers Association, which actively supported the repeal of HERO.
According to the joint statement, the Baptist Ministers Association “apologizes for the pain [its opposition to HERO] caused the LGBTQ community, and we both look forward to ongoing discussions to prevent this from happening again as we collectively fight for the equality of all Houstonians.”
“Though we may not agree on everything, we both realize that [there] is more that unites us than divides us,” said Pastor Max Miller, president of the Baptist Ministers Association. “We are looking forward to more discussions to continue to build on this relationship. Our apology is sincere.”
Approved by the City Council in 2014, HERO prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and numerous other characteristics — including race. After anti-LGBTQ groups launched a petition, the ordinance was ultimately repealed by voters in November 2015. The anti-HERO campaign was based almost entirely on the false, fear-mongering assertion that transgender nondiscrimination protections would lead to men preying on young girls in women’s bathrooms.
Thanks to opposition from groups like the Baptist Ministers Association, as well as insufficient minority outreach by the pro-HERO campaign, black voters went heavily against the ordinance.
Monica Roberts, who chairs the Caucus’ Faith Outreach Task Force, said in the statement that as a black trans woman, she was “happy on behalf of the Houston transgender community to convey to [the Black Ministers Association] how harmful that anti-trans rhetoric was to our community and the trans community at large.”
“We have more in common than not, in terms of wanting a Houston we can all be proud of and in which everyone’s human rights and humanity is respected and protected,” Roberts added. “Trans Houstonians needed to hear an apology, and I am happy it was given. I am pleased that these conversations will continue so that we can continue the process of getting a much-needed nondiscrimination ordinance in Houston.”
The Caucus also apologized for “not directly engaging black and brown communities,” including the Black Ministers Association.
“The Caucus values the importance of reaching out to all communities when fighting for civil rights, equality, and equity,” said Caucus President Mike Webb, who is also African-American. “For 43 years, the Caucus has been on the front lines working to advance the rights of the LGBTQ community. We recognize that as we continue to lead this fight, we need and effective, and more inclusive, coalition. I strongly believe mending broken relationships is one way we can build this needed coalition together.”
Read the full statement below.