I’d like to interrupt my regularly scheduled Editor’s Note to sound an alarm over the recent return of anti-LGBTQ political attacks in Houston.
Nearly three years after the repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), the groups that led the anti-HERO campaign appear to be emboldened by the anti-LGBTQ climate fostered under president Donald Trump’s administration.
Late last month, the Houston Area Pastor Council and the Conservative Republicans of Texas targeted the Houston Public Library’s popular Drag Queen Storytime program (featuring local LGBTQ performers reading to children and their parents), calling it “a form of pedophilia.” The groups also criticized mayor Sylvester Turner and police chief Art Acevedo for participating in this June’s Houston Pride parade, which they said was “overflowing with the gender-confused” and “sexual deviancy.”
Turner and Acevedo, both supporters of equality, brushed off the criticisms. But the anti-LGBTQ groups have a City Council ally in Michael Kubosh, who also publicly complained about Drag Queen Storytime last month.
It would be easy to dismiss these attacks as empty rhetoric from right-wing extremists. But given the current political climate of growing intolerance, that would be a mistake.
On the heels of their successful anti-HERO campaign, these same groups are involved in a lawsuit against the City of Houston, Pidgeon v. Turner, which aims to roll back marriage equality by allowing government entities to deny benefits to the same-sex spouses of public employees. Moreover, these local groups’ national counterparts like the Family Research Council enjoy unprecedented influence over the White House and Congress.
Trump recently nominated another far-right Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation would tilt the court’s majority against LGBTQ rights. In short, much of what the LGBTQ community has fought for and won over the last few decades—from marriage equality to the very legalization of our existence in Lawrence v. Texas—is now in jeopardy.
The first real opportunity to stem this tide of intolerance will be the midterm elections in November, when Democrats have a realistic chance to take back both the House and Senate. Several of the key races in this equation are in Texas, including Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Republican senator Ted Cruz, and Lizzie Pannill Fletcher’s campaign against GOP congressman John Culberson in west Houston.
Although our opportunity to oust at-large City council member Kubosh won’t come until the 2019 municipal elections, the time to act is now.
The deadline to register to vote in November is October 9. In the meantime, you can also support pro-equality candidates by donating, volunteering, and/or getting involved with groups like the Houston GLBT Political Caucus.
We simply cannot afford to sit this one out.