It's a long sordid, and complicated story. Some people are pro-gay and pro-transgender got together in Houston, Texas. They decided that there was enough neighborhood and public support to push up a carefully crafted agenda, which basically said.....depending on how you felt or were biologically (male or female), you could go to the bathroom of your choice. So for example, if you were guy who occasionally liked to dress up as a lady and pretend you were a lady.....if you were in the public library or some basketball arena.....you could walk into the women's restroom.
I know, it's a pretty difficult idea to get across, but apparently....this was the mythical moment when it was believed by some political people as being an opportune time.
So, a number of folks figured out the whole scheme, and then went against it. In order to go against it.....they had to put it on the ballot and make it a referendum. Roughly 17,000 signatures of registered voters in the area were required. The group got over 50,000. When the city clerk got up to roughly 19,000 on the count and certified....they stopped. The minimum had been met.
An odd thing then occurred, as the city deemed roughly thirty thousand of the signatures as null and void. The wording to this....is not exactly clear, and I've yet to find any journalist (even from Houston) who can explain how they failed. One must assume they were either not a Houston resident or they were not registered, but this is never spelled out. These days, petition gatherers are trained and know precisely the three or four questions to ask, to ensure the guy signing is legit.
What happened next is rather odd. The city attorney then lodged a criminal type action, looking at the support group who put up the petition, and deemed that local ministers were behind the action. The big step here? A legal document forwarded to a judge and signed.....demanded that five local ministers of Houston hand over their sermons, personal emails that discussed this entire matter, and any correspondence that had the mention of the city mayor (who is lesbian).
You can imagine the eruption of hostility over this....the ministers have basically said that this stepped over the line of the Constitution, and there's going to be a long and hostile fight to start up.
Violation of religious rights? The Constitution offers up one of the most protective clauses on the face of the Earth for religion. You cannot make any single law which impedes religion of any citizen, period. No exceptions. You cannot interfere with the assembly of a religious group, as long as they are acting in a peaceful manner and not threatening anyone. I don't believe you can find any other government that goes to this extent.
The sermon request? I think the five ministers probably sat there as they got the letter and read it.....coming to just grin and start laughing. Some ministers might admit they have vast scripts and PowerPoint slides. Some might admit a single page with a few quotes. And some will just grin and admit that they have scrap piece of paper with two or three Bible quotes, and lead the entire forty-minute sermon based on those scraps of paper. Some ministers might have video stock of their sermons just because they think these were five-star episodes and great classics.
What would a city prosecutor do with sermons? This leads off to a funny moment or two which would brew up. I'm not sure this city prosecutor or the people behind him have considered what happens in court rooms, and how a minister would be in his "audience".....preaching to the judge.....preaching to the jury.....and preaching to the city prosecutor himself. A court room? No.....the minister can convene the moment into a church, and the whole court affair disappears in a matter of five minutes. It is in effect.....the most bogus use of law that one can imagine, and would be a court circus by all definition.
Saying that the church or ministers have no right to define local laws as hostile or threatening the social environment of their members? You'd have to lay out dozens of things which are allowed by ministers and disallowed. The minute you start this.....it becomes never-ending. What judge would sit there in a court, and allow this to become such a mess? I can't think of any rational judge sitting in America that would want this type of case in their court. Just imagine the minute you call a witness and they want you sworn-in to tell the truth, and the phrase....."so help me God" comes up.
Strangely enough.....all of this goes back to the original concept....letting some guy think he's a woman today, and going into the women's restroom. Or having some woman who thinks she's a guy and going into a men's restroom. Houston has 2.196 million people (at least Google says that for 2013). Out of that, how many people want the dual privilege bathrooms in public areas? No journalist, political figure or commentator has suggested a number yet. That's the surprising part of this story. For all we know......it could be dozen people out of 2.196 million. Maybe it's 216 people. Or maybe there's 16,326 people. You just don't know.
Yes, we've created a massive and frustrating mess, to help some people find the right bathroom for their personal relief. We've wrapped ministers, religious groups, news media idiots, neighborhood groups, Democrats, Latinos, blacks, Southern Baptist Churches, and Republicans into this. All for the sake of a bathroom break.
What idiot dreamed this up....to come a month prior to the November election? You can't find where this started, and you have to wonder if some Karl Rove-type character just sat there a year ago and felt he could trick the Houston Democratic crowd into doing something really stupid.
Roughly 1.6 million people came out in the county and city election of 2012 from Houston. The vote? County-wide, it was almost fifty-fifty for Republicans and Democrats. It's a fair balanced deal.
In this moment? The Democrats rely a fair amount on Latino votes, and I would take a fair guess that half of the Latinos registered to vote.....also attend some local church....and have some opinion about this whole sermon thing, and the transgender bathroom thing. If you ask me.....the leadership in Houston for the Democrats have blasted themselves severely over something of such a minor stumble, which might only benefit a dozen transgender, or a hundred, or a thousand who might want this.
This morning, I read that the State Attorney General has drafted a letter and sent onto the prosecutor involved in this....to simply stop. There are certain things which he might do, but getting the sermons into some legal episode? That crossed a line.
To simplify and tell this? If you had spoken up a decade ago to say that some major city in America would seek to pass an open-bathroom agenda for public facilities in town, then would fuss over a ballot referendum with adequate signatures, and finally go after some ministers and sermons in a courtroom turned church environment.....I would have laughed and said it'd make a great comedy. Well....it came to pass.
The golden moment in this comedy? At some point, if this goes into court with the five ministers, the prosecutor will be hotly frustrated with things, and some minister will say "I'm praying for your lost soul." The judge will get peeved and jerk the minister on the stand giving testimony around, and the minister will turn and respond that he's praying for the judge's lost soul as well. At that point, the fat lady will sung, and the curtain will close.