Austin Hub

Texas Pastors Compare Gay Marriage To Bestiality, Pedophilia at Senate Committee Hearing: VIDEO


A Texas Senate committee hearing turned into an anti-gay hatefest on Monday.  

As we told you last week, state legislators are considering a bill designed to protect clergy and churches from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings.

Pro-LGBT groups including Equality Texas and the ACLU of Texas have said that as long as the bill is crafted narrowly enough, they'd be wiling to support it. However, at the conclusion of Monday's hearing, the author of the Senate version of the bill rejected an amendment proposed by the two groups.

This was after dozens of pastors testified in support of the bill, with some comparing same-sex marriage to adultery, bestiality, domestic abuse, pedophilia and polygamy. Anti-LGBT witnesses also accused gay couples in other states of "bullying," "bigotry" and "hate crimes" for allegedly trying to force pastors to perform their weddings. 

"Where are we going to stop with this?" said Bruce Engleman (above left), pastor of the Baptist Temple in Fort Worth. "Let's just get to the chase. Where's it going to stop? I heard of a woman in Florida that married a dog. Am I going to have to perform a wedding ceremony for an animal and a human being? And how can we say, 'Well, we have to marry certain people against our convictions,' and then tell a Mormon who's a fundamental [sic] Mormon, 'Well, we can't marry you because you want to marry two women'? Where is this going to stop? We see as evangelical Christians all over America, our rights are begin stripped every day, and nobody's standing up for our rights, except for a few of you senators, and I appreciate that."

David Joiner (above right), pastor of LifeSprings Church, said same-sex marriage is not marriage because it violates natural law, turns a moral wrong into a civil right, and offends God. Joiner then proclaimed, "I'm not a homophobia [sic]." 

"Over the years I believe we've heard of people that want and tried to pass pedophilia," Joiner said. "That's what's in their heart. They bring it up because that's where they lean toward. Just think if it passed one day, and they said, 'Well, you have to marry this 16-year-old boy to this guy' or whatever. We need to take a stand because the moral — they're trying to get it to the gay, we know that, but like I said we preach about love, and nobody would want that for their child for the most part, so we don't want to see a stepping stone for them to get this to pass and then to move on to stuff like that." 

Beverly Roberts, area director of Concerned Women for America, said that same-sex couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal are trying to force pastors to perform their weddings. 

"Should we not consider these to be hate crimes? Are these not instances of targeted bigotry? Are these couples not engaging in the same bullying tactics they profess to deplore? Why are they attacking a minister when they don't even need him to perform their marriage? So again I ask you, who are the bullies, the bigots and the haters?"

The Senate committee advanced the bill in a 5-1 vote. It now goes to the full Senate. An identical bill was approved by a House committee last week. 

Watch testimony from Engleman, Joiner and Roberts, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Pastors Compare Gay Marriage To Bestiality, Pedophilia at Senate Committee Hearing: VIDEO" »

LGBT Advocates In Texas May Back Marriage Bill Championed By Anti-Gay Hate Groups


In an extreme example of how politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows, LGBT advocates in Texas say they're prepared to endorse legislation championed by two anti-gay hate groups. 

Representatives from Equality Texas and the ACLU of Texas say as long as it's narrowly written, they're likely to support a bill protecting pastors and churches from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings. 

The bill is being pushed by the Texas Pastor Council and Texas Values, two prominent anti-LGBT groups. A few weeks ago, the Pastor Council brought in dozens of religious leaders to testify in support of the bill. (Executive Director Dave Welch is shown addressing the pastors on the Capitol steps above.) 

Of course, pastors and churches are already protected from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

The Texas Observer reports: 

Aclutx“It’s my job here at the ACLU to protect religious liberty, and if the bill is really about religious liberty, we’re going to come out in favor of it,” said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas. “There’s not a single example of any clergy being forced to perform a wedding that they don’t believe is consistent with their faith, but nevertheless we agree with the principle.”

Robertson said other states have enacted similar protections in conjunction with marriage equality legislation or nondiscrimination laws. Texas is one of only 13 states where same-sex marriage is still banned, but the U.S. Supreme Court is widely expected to change that next month.

“There’s a reason that we can all get together on this bill,” Robertson said. “It’s a principle we all agree on, and people can take comfort in the fact that their personal faith traditions are not going to be threatened. There’s room for both religious liberty and equality. We have a big Constitution.”

This same issue came to the fore this week when anti-gay U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia erroneously suggested during oral arguments that pastors could be forced to perform same-sex weddings if the court rules in favor of nationwide marriage equality. GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush later repeated Scalia's claim. 

The Texas Pastor Council's Welch told the Observer he isn't surprised LGBT groups are prepared to support the bill, acknowledging it's redundant with existing constitutional protections.

Welch said his group will continue to push other "religious freedom" legislation that would establish a license to discriminate against LGBT people. More than 20 anti-LGBT bills have been introduced in Texas this year. But most are stalled amid opposition from business leaders, including the Texas Association of Business, which is the state's powerful chamber of commerce. 

From the Observer

“Some of the Republican leadership are going to have to face the music if they don’t stand up for the principles upon which they were elected,” Welch said. “If they’re going to cater to the profit-at-all-cost corporate greed of the Texas Association of Business, which is basically standing on an empty platform of deception, they’ll ultimately lose the next election. … If Apple is going to pull out of Texas because we’re going to defend our religious freedom that has produced the same climate that brought them here to begin with, then frankly, move back to California.”

Texas Marriage Plaintiffs Make Wedding Plans, But GOP State Lawmakers Have Other Ideas


Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss are so confident the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality in June that they've already made their wedding plans. 

Phariss and Holmes, one of two couples challenging Texas' bans on same-sex marriage in federal court, were in Washington on Tuesday for oral arguments. 

The Houston Chronicle reports: 

"We put our money where our mouth is," Phariss told the Chronicle on Monday. "We have booked a site for a wedding. We have put down a deposit. We have hired a videographer. We have hired a photographer. We have the 'save the day cards' printed -- all for a November wedding near Frisco." ... 

Phariss and Holmes arrived in Washington early on Saturday. Phariss said his favorite part of the trip so far was a dinner hosted Monday night by gay rights group Freedom to Marry, to which hundreds of other gay marriage plaintiffs and their advocates from 30 states attended.

"We all have such similar stories. We've all been there in the trenches. We've all fought for marriage equality," said Phariss. "We all feel like we're all in the same boat and I mean - we feel like a little fraternity."

The Dallas Morning News reports Holmes and Phariss almost didn't get in to the courthouse on Tuesday, after someone cut in front of them in line:

Holmes was No. 49 in the line, Phariss No. 50. And yet, when the courthouse doors opened Tuesday morning, somehow they’d been pushed back one spot, leaving Phariss outside. Once inside, other members of the group figured out there had been one line-cutter and shamed her into giving up her seat to Phariss.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers in Texas are also trying to spoil things for Holmes and Phariss. And unlike the line-cutter, they don't appear to have any shame.

Bell.CecilLast week, a Texas House committee advanced a bill by GOP Rep. Cecil Bell (right), which would prohibit state or local funds from being used to license or recognize same-sex marriages. LGBT advocates say the bill is blatantly unconstitutional, but BuzzFeed News warns that even after a high court ruling, such legislation could be "litigated almost interminably, possibly leaving certain rights for same-sex couples in limbo":

In this context, it’s impossible to ignore the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which found abortion was a constitutional right, but a right that must be balanced with each state’s interest in regulating those abortions. Particularly in Texas, the legislature has pushed the regulatory envelope on Roe v. Wade and the laws that have followed have led to new lawsuits — with several rulings saying the state was too restrictive while several even more restrictive measures were left in place.

“We know from cases like Roe v. Wade that the power of the purse hasn’t been challenged,” said Rep. Bell, adding that the bill he is pushing will “set up an additional legal challenge.”

Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, compared GOP Texas lawmakers' resistance to marriage equality to their fight against desegregation: 

“Ultimately the result will be almost endless litigation that will be very expensive to taxpayers and plaintiffs, and ultimately Texas will lose, just like when it tried to block desegregation,” Quinn said. “The question is: How much pain and heartburn are the state lawmakers willing to put the state through to get there?”

Both Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton issued statements Tuesday to mark oral arguments at the Supreme Court. But even Paxton, who's fought bitterly to deny rights to same-sex couples, appeared to acknowledged that the high court will have the final say: 

"At stake in this case is whether the people of the State of Texas—and people in the states across the nation—can make their own laws defining marriage," he said. 


'Ex-Gay' Republican Deceives Texas Lawmakers, Testifies In Support Of Anti-LGBT Bill


Earlier this week, a Texas House committee held a hearing on a so-called religious freedom bill that purportedly aims to prevent pastors from being forced to perform same-sex marriages. 

Critics of the bill say it's written so broadly that it could allow any religiously affiliated organization — from hospitals and universities to homeless shelters — to discriminate against gay couples. 

Most of those who testified in support of the bill were pastors brought in by the anti-LGBT Texas Pastor Council. But then there was also Jason Vaughn (shown above left, with Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton), who told the committee he's gay but supports the bill.

Here's part of Vaughn's testimony, from a transcript he later posted on a Texas GOP website:  

"I stand before you as a gay man in support of this bill, but the truth is that my sexuality shouldn't matter. Nor should anything else other than the fact that I'm a proud Texan with inalienable rights.

"Inalienable rights to live my life as I wish as long as I do not hinder the rights of others. That's what the gay rights movement has been about, at least until recently. Now it seems that folks are more interested in forcing others to take part in our lives. The actions of my community that have too often made up the news cycle are nothing more than hypocrisy. To say that we want the right to live as we wish while harassing companies like Chick-Fil-A, attacking Brendan Eich in California until he could not work, and even demanding that HGTV fire the Benham Brothers for their views on abortion and gay marriage is beyond the pale. ... 

"I'm sickened that we are at the point that pastors feel the need for this bill, but I urge you to support it."

One member of the committee, GOP Rep. Patricia Harless, asked Vaughn whether he agreed with one of the pastors who testified that disagreement is not the same as hatred or discrimination.

“I have friends from Jonathan Saenz to a gay communist stripper," Vaughn responded, referring to the leader of the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values

Vaughn's line got a lot of laughs, and his testimony was apparently persuasive in the mind of at least one legislator. However, it was predicated on a complete lie.

As Vaughn himself admitted in another post on the same website earlier this month, he's not really gay. Rather, he's a self-described "celibate Christian homosexual" — which apparently is just another term for "ex-gay." From Vaughn's post titled, "As a Gay Man, The Hypocrisy of the LGBT Community Really Ticks Me Off":

For those that don’t know me, my name is Jason Vaughn and I am a celibate Christian homosexual. I don’t really know how to describe it as some say I shouldn’t associate myself as a gay man. I use it that way instead of “reformed homosexual” or “former homosexual” because I want to be clear that it is still a temptation I have to fight regularly and one I have failed at many times. ... 

Since coming out [as ex-gay] I’ve made a lot of friends that are either openly gay, secretly tempted with same sex attraction, or fighting for celibacy like me. Several young people have come to me and asked for advice on dealing with this. It’s not easy. I’m still tempted with same sex attraction and probably always will be. It doesn't get easier and the last year has been the hardest and most confusing. I’ve made plenty of mistakes sexually. I just continue to look to Christ daily and trust Him to keep me.

OK, here's the deal: If you want to futily attempt to repress your sexuality because you hate yourself, that's your call. But you don't get to ruin it for the rest of us by holding yourself out publicly as a member of the LGBT community. 

Given that Vaughn is living a lie, it isn't terribly surprising that he has no qualms about deceiving lawmakers into thinking he's an openly gay man. Wait, isn't there something in the Bible about bearing false witness?   

Texas GOP Lawmaker Wants To Ensure Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against Gay Couples


Rep. Scott Sanford (above) has introduced a measure — similar to a proposal in Florida — that would allow child welfare providers to discriminate based on "sincerely held religious beliefs." 

The Texas Observer reports: 

On Wednesday, Sanford told a House committee that in some states where same-sex marriage is legal, organizations such as Catholic Charities have shut down rather than comply with laws barring discrimination against gay couples.

“Faith-based organizations have played a vital role in serving our nation’s orphaned and needy children since America’s founding, and this legislation protects their operations,” Sanford said. “States without these protective measures have had organizations cease to operate, placing more demand on government.”

HB 3864, which Sanford is calling the “Hope for Orphans and Minors Expansion Act,” or HOME, would prohibit the state from taking “adverse action” against child welfare providers that receive taxpayer dollars and act based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It would also protect the rights of state-funded agencies to provide religious education to children and to deny them access to abortions or birth control.

Opponents of the bill say it would also allow discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care. For example, a faith-based agency could force them into reparative therapy.  

Ken-paxton_2_jpg_131x197_crop_q100A representative from the office of Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) testified in support of the bill, saying that like bans on cell phone use while driving, nondiscrimination laws are an example of government overreach. One tea party lawmaker on the committee — Rep. Debbie Riddle — called the bill "fabulous" and repeatedly told supportive witnesses from Christian groups they were "doing the Lord's work." 

Meanwhile, in Florida, a similar proposal that died in the Senate last week has been resurrected and will be voted on Monday, according to Equality Florida.

The Human Rights Campaign and five leading national child welfare organizations issued a joint statement Thursday opposing the anti-LGBT adoption measures in Florida, Texas and other states. From HRC's release:  

Organizations that signed the statement, in addition to HRC Foundation, the educational arm of the nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, are the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the Child Welfare League of America, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Education Association. ... 

“We, as organizations dedicated to serving the best interests and well-being of children and youth, are deeply concerned about the spate of anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced in state legislatures around the country this year,” the statement says, “including measures that would allow discrimination in adoption and foster care, criminalize transgender people who attempt to use restrooms, and, under the guise of religious liberty, give service providers the power to deny child welfare services to the very people who need our care the most.”

Finally, in related news, a Texas Democrat delivered impassioned remarks on the House floor this week in support of a separate proposal to allow same-sex parents to have both names on the birth certificates of adopted children.

Watch state Rep. Rafael Anchia's speech, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas GOP Lawmaker Wants To Ensure Taxpayer-Funded Adoption Agencies Can Discriminate Against Gay Couples" »

Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge


More than 100 corporations and other organizations — from American Airlines and Apple to the Houston Super Bowl Host Committee — have joined an impressive coalition of businesses pledging to support LGBT equality in Texas.

The coalition, called Texas Competes, launched Tuesday in Austin against the backdrop of 22 anti-LGBT bills in the state Legislature. 

From the Texas Competes website

Texas Competes' mission is to provide a unified voice for the Texas business community on the clear economic and business case for fair treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers, families, customers, and tourists. That unified voice takes the form of the Texas Competes pledge.

Many of Texas' most successful businesses have policies and workplace cultures that are inclusive and welcoming to LGBT workers and customers. But the competitiveness of these businesses, and of the Texas economy, is impacted by the brand that the state of Texas projects on the LGBT issue. The Texas Competes pledge creates an opportunity for business leaders to clarify their shared economic interests in fair treatment for gay and transgender people.

More from The Texas Observer:

Texas Competes spokesman James Shackelford said the coalition won’t take positions on specific legislation and that the effort has been in the works for months, long before anti-LGBT religious freedom laws in Indiana and Arkansas sparked historic backlash from the corporate sector.

“But obviously the timing, when it’s launching and when we’re going public with it, is important,” Shackelford told theObserver.

The Texas Association of Business, the state’s powerful chamber of commerce, has come out against two religious freedom amendments that critics say would enshrine a license to discriminate against LGBT people in the constitution. However, dozens of other measures also target LGBT rights, from statutory religious exemption bills to proposals that would ban local nondiscrimination protections and transgender restroom use.

“Texas is an economic powerhouse because it’s a place where talented people, entrepreneurs and companies want to call home. But our competitiveness is in jeopardy if Texas does not become a place that is welcoming to LGBT workers and families,” Texas Competes advisory board member and former Dell CFO Tom Meredith said in a statement. “Businesses that embrace diversity are doing both the right thing and the economically smart thing.”

Interestingly, several business not otherwise known as LGBT-friendly have joined the coalition, while others long considered corporate allies have not. 

For example, Texas-based MetroPCS, which joined the coalition, has a score of 0 on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index. But AT&T, which hasn't joined the coalition, has a score of 100. (AT&T was also a major supporter of anti-gay Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's campaign last year).

Watch a report from KXAN-TV and check out the full list of organizations that have joined Texas Competes, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Over 100 Texas Organizations, Including 13 Fortune 500 Companies, Sign LGBT Equality Pledge " »


Towleroad - Blogged