About 250 faith leaders gathered outside the Capitol Tuesday morning to denounce the transgender bathroom bills as attacks by radical religious politicians, blasphemous and a manifestation of hatred.
“I’m tired of the fear and scapegoating driving politics in this state,” said the Rev. Griff Martin of First Baptist Church of Austin.
Bishop Erik Gronberg with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in Fort Worth said “discrimination is not God’s way forward for us.”
“We are here because our faith traditions make standing against legalized discrimination an imperative,” Gronberg said.
The interfaith group Texas Impact gathered the leaders of different faith traditions to meet lawmakers and their staffs to lobby against bills that would ban transgender-friendly bathroom policies in public schools and local governments.
They began with a rally on the Capitol’s south steps, with speakers including Mohamed-Umer Esmail, imam of the Nueces Mosque in Austin, who said a disciple of the Prophet Muhammad was transgender, “and he was part of the community; he was even welcome in the very home of the Prophet.”
“I call upon the governor and the Legislature: Enough is enough. Enough of the transphobia,” he said.
Rabbi Mara Nathan of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio said hatred motivates legislation targeting transgender bathroom use.
“We are witnessing a moment when leaders in our communities feel comfortable being horrible to other people, when our fellow citizens seem to lack compassion for our neighbors and our neighbors’ children,” Nathan said. “Bathroom bills at their core are a manifestation of senseless hatred. They target transgender individuals and expose them to increased risk of bullying.”
Kimberly Shappley of Houston, a nondenominational Christian and mother of a transgender child, tearfully appealed to members of her faith.
“Our politicians currently are trying to force my little girl to use a men’s restroom. Whose women and children are they trying to protect, really?” Shappley asked.
“There’s an entire community of people who are hurting, and we are in desperate need of those who will stand in the gap and love us through the storm,” she said. “Christians, your silence can be deafening to those being oppressed. We need you. Desperately, we need people who will love us.”
On Thursday, a rally in favor of limits on transgender use of bathrooms and changing rooms also will be held at the Capitol, led by conservative Christian leaders and the Texas Pastor Council.
The Senate quickly approved a bill cracking down on transgender-friendly bathrooms, but Republican House leaders have greeted the legislation with skepticism.