As many of you know, I have been running a transparent, positive campaign to make Houston better by focusing on the issues and will continue to do so. I wish I could say the same for some of my fellow candidates in this race, but instead of running "for something", and not "against someone", their focus seems not to be on uniting a conservative coalition around common sense solutions solving Houston's pressing challenges, but rather to expend their efforts towards division, discord and discrediting my character with "half-truths" and false accusations about my life. You see, this race has never been about me, but about bringing accountability, responsibility and community back to City Hall.
In case you missed it, another candidate posted a long blog that released a questionnaire I had filled out relating to issues of concern to the GLBT political caucus and claimed that I am a "Flip Flopper". I can understand how concerned citizens with a stake in our city's future could be misled to believe the misguided premise and be justifiably furious if it were so, but for those interested in learning the truth of my stance on H.E.R.O and my personal Christian beliefs and values, you can easily do your homework by simply reading three blog posts; the first related to my open-minded thought process analyzing the substance of this ordinance here, next, the failed implementation process of our city leadership here and finally my recommended approach to dealing with divisive social and political agendas here.
At the time, H.E.R.O. was still very much the law of the land, and as a Christian, I have always been very firm on obeying all laws of the land regardless of my consent or agreement with their justness or fairness. Of course, as I am for religious liberty, if I would ever feel that obedience to an unjust law would force me to break "God's Law", then under extreme circumstances, I would endeavor to either resist or appeal for a change, and would disobey with full acquiescence in suffering the legal consequences.
However, at the time I was asked whether I would continue to support the law as it stood as a sitting council member. I openly and honestly said "Yes" as the ordinance was still the law at that time, and my firm belief is that the ministerial duty of our representatives in government is to abide by, obey and enforce the laws. All things being equal, I was also sympathetic to the fact that many who supported the ordinance as it stood did so under their belief that the intent of its passage and result of its implementation would provide better protection under the law from discrimination, especially for classes some perceive as disproportionately unprotected under the previous legal framework.
Now, the future legal status of the ordinance is uncertain and still mired in controversy, yet regardless of the outcome, I hope to help lead the fight to better achieve equality, freedom and peace among everyone in our city - with policies based on conservative values, and laws held accountable to their aims. Sadly, in my own life, I have seen how well-intentioned laws of all types have failed to achieve their desired ends - some slowing progress towards their stated aims, and others altogether counterproductive to their goals.
As a Christian, I believe God's Laws are summed up in Matthew 7:12 to say, "...in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you." Mark 12:29-31 states, "You should love the Eternal, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second great commandment is this: “Love others in the same way you love yourself.” There are no commandments more important than these."
With that being read, I have always believed that my responsibility as a Christian is to share God's love with everyone regardless of their sins, since none of us are perfect and because God is Love. I sin every day, and instead of focusing on publicly pointing out others' sin, I focus on the three fingers that would point back at me, ask God to help me identify my daily sins, repent, and ask Him and others to forgive my trespasses. I know I am not alone in my commitment to refrain from discriminating against others, not due to solely to our earthly laws, but because of God's law.
Like many others caught off guard on this issue, I had never considered Houston as a discriminatory city before H.E.R.O. stirred up the current controversy. In fact, we have a strong history of dealing with discrimination and segregation in a positive and uniting way. The freedom, justice and equality valued by our people is what has made our great city open and inviting to all, proven by the very election of Mayor Parker as an "openly gay" candidate.
However, somehow the mayor decided that discrimination was so bad, that she would stake all of her political capital on passing an ordinance that is now seen by some as the most divisive move ever made in the city of Houston. It continues to force Houstonians who had been friends in the past to take sides against one another, and as I had initially opposed this divisive spirit, I continue to oppose the envy, fear and intolerance that drives this movement. I did not then - and do not now - believe that a social policy ordinance, no matter how well written, could end discrimination, and heal relations across communities, especially if imposed from the top down, forced involuntarily upon our fellow citizens. I believe change in society comes best from the bottom up, and only a movement to get back to God's word will move us progressively towards hope, love and truth, away from inequality, injustice and an unfree society.
Still the mayor has stood firm in mandating the status quo. She first disenfranchised our people from deciding the issue and imposed her will upon the council. She framed the debate with inflammatory rhetoric as a choice either "for equality" or "for discrimination". Upon passage, suppressed voices petitioned for a choice - the long held democratic right to self government as allowed by our city charter via the ballot box. Mayor Parker circumvented her limited powers of government and initiated a new policy to invalidate the petition. The city was subsequently sued, when she issued sermon subpoenas to pastors to make her defense. Even after the Texas Supreme Court mandamus to immediately repeal or let voters decide, Mayor Parker promoted misleading language to confuse voters as follows:
"Shall the City of Houston repeal the Houston Equal Right Ordinance, Ord. No 2014-530, which prohibits discrimination in city employment and city services, city contracts, public accommodations, private employment, and housing based on an individuals's sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity, or pregnancy?"
How would even educated voters who know their stance on H.E.R.O. vote if this is read on the ballot?
Regardless, H.E.R.O. is bad for our city, bad for discrimination, and bad for business. When it was the law, our local leaders were required to support it out of respect for the law. Now that new facts are in and the law is suspended, candidates and current officeholders are able to argue for alternatives. As stated, I consider H.E.R.O. unjust and intend to appeal to voters to vote "YES" to repeal the ordinance in November. Of course another lawsuit has been filed and the courts may judge the language misleading, similar to the Rebuild Houston controversy.
I am convinced the mayor will continue trying to mislead our city's voters. She resorts to "half-truths" to make her case, instead of the whole truth that would hurt her cause, the same way some have done in this race for City Council. As a political outsider, I encourage everyone to verify what politicians say and ask yourself why they want you to believe them. Seeking the truth is the ACCOUNTABILITY part of our "Campaign Of Now" platform, calling on all citizens to become more active, encourage inquisitive and honest research, and call out candidates and elected officials when they mislead, misdirect or misrepresent the whole truth. Responsible, transparent and honest leaders should address issues clearly if they are to be accountable to our community.
Ultimately, I will be voting against the implementation of the equal rights ordinance as currently written. However, if given the chance to modify or amend the language, I would recommend the following revisions to address several substantial concerns:
Explicitly clarify that protections for religious liberty remain for anyone with religious beliefs or convictions, not just the certain categories of institutions and "religious organizations" (Sec. 17-2) currently listed in the ordinance, in accordance with our traditional constitutional principles, bill of rights and limited powers of government delegated by the people at each level.
Explicitly clarify that the definition of "discrimination" (Sec. 17-2) as described in the ordinance applies only to categorical situations, and does not apply on an individual, case by case basis. Our city government should protect against the institutionalization of discrimination, without discriminating against the property rights and freedom of conscience of property owners themselves.
Explicitly clarify that the intent and effect of the ordinance is the freedom from "discrimination" for individuals based on their innate individual "characteristics" (Sec. 17-2), but should not extend to their chosen "behaviors".
Include wording to specify the additional, new GLBT classifications to those already specified in the Civil Right Act of 1964, ADA, etc. For true equality under the law, all other as yet unlisted "protected characteristics" (Sec. 17-2) should be explicitly granted equal protection as those belonging to a so called "protected class," as specified in the ordinance, to preclude the social agenda of granting of special privileges to the politically connected - the aim of those pushing this "Trojan Horse".
Define the responsibilities of the "Office of Inspector General" (Sec. 17-2) clearly in regards to local enforcement and control of any ordinance and federal laws, with a specified revenue neutral budget paid for without raising taxes or debt to avoid another unfunded mandate.
Assure that the government that installed the ordinance does not "exclude" themselves from the enforcement of the ordinance (Sec. 17-54 ); the public sector should be held to the same standard as the private sector.
Ensure the wording of the ballot language is clear and not misleading - the vote should be "Yes" to add the classifications or "No" if voters are against it - they should decide and not the city council.
In this antagonistic political culture of today, it can be frustrating when those in power - and those who seek power - expend their efforts and energy on dividing coalitions, destroying reputations and discrediting a process to promote practical solutions. Rather good leaders must endeavor to focus on conducting practical policy research, analyzing pragmatic solutions and meeting with those we disagree to create innovative ideas and workable solutions to prevent our city's issues from swelling to outright crises.
Our children depend on this generation to address our challenges now, and with a collaborative approach, I believe we can renew our focus on the core responsibilities of local government and succeed. Together we must seek to unite and heal divisions across our community, and confront divisive distractions to prevent unpopular agendas imposed from the top-down.
Our campaign has sought to unite a broad coalition in support of my candidacy for Houston City Council At Large #4. For those who believe in freedom, equality and justice, I value your unique diversity at our table - if you are not a part of the solution, you may be a part of the problem. Personally, I have chosen to love God and love my neighbor, and although we may not all agree on everything all the time, I believe everyone deserves the right to be respectfully heard since we all love this city together.
Throughout my life, I have made many tough decisions, and I have learned from my mistakes and openly sought to provide solutions based on the lessons I've learned. While others desperately attempt to discredit my record, values and ideas, I will continue to openly declare my stance on the important issues of our time. I know from my own trials where I have accomplished and overcome, that we can continue standing strong and fight to make Houston better together. One step at a time and depend on God to lead our path…