This week I will turn 55 years old. I am a white, silver-haired, mother of three, middle class, straight, Christian Houstonian. I serve a growing Episcopal Church and School in the Montrose. Why should I care about the Equal Rights Ordinance before the City Council? Why should you?
While laws in and of themselves do not make people good, they do have the effect of creating the boundaries of behavior—defining the pale. The moral tone of a community gets set and shaped by its laws and practices. Law creates corporate character; that is why God gives the law to the children of Israel to establish them as a people. By their laws and how they act, the surrounding nations will come to know the God of Israel.
As Americans our laws do the same for us as citizens. The Constitution came to include the Bill of Rights to ensure that the boundaries of the State would be defined. State and municipalities follow suit as we declare our convictions about everything from property use to barking dogs. Laws point us in the direction of growth toward the common good. Such is our heritage as people of faith and as citizens of the United States. The State cannot define our faith; neither can the faith rule the State.
Currently, the City of Houston does not have law that protects all its citizens from discrimination—including people with disabilities, women, differing gender identities, and sexual orientations. The Mayor’s proposal would change that; you may read the proposed language here.
At St. Stephen’s we have a history of embracing all people with the compassion of Christ. We have been in the forefront of integration of schools, inclusion of women, embrace of lesbian and gay people, and now the transgender community. Part of our witness is to invite our fellow citizens and Christians to live their values with compassion for others, especially for those most easily ignored and cast aside.
I attended the Council hearing yesterday and spoke in favor of the ordinance. I was struck by the fear in the room from our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather than demonize them, we need to witness to the power of love by our regard for them as we simultaneously work for freedom and peace for all people. We set the tone by our values which are concretized in our laws. I encourage you to witness in love.
--The Rev. Lisa Hunt