Curry, Jennings urge Texas House leader to continue opposition to Texas ‘bathroom bill’ noting General Convention planned 2018 meeting in Austin

By ENS staff
Posted Jul 20, 2017

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have written a second letter to Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus urging him to stand firm in his opposition to that state legislature’s effort to pass a “bathroom bill” during the current special session.

The Episcopal Church General Convention is scheduled to meet July 5-13, 2018, in Austin, Texas, and Jennings told the Executive Council in June that, “we are watching the situation closely with an eye to ensuring the safety and dignity of everyone traveling to General Convention next summer.”

Curry and Jennings wrote to Straus in February, thanking him or his stand against the bill. However, the letter notes that the church moved General Convention from Houston to Honolulu in 1955 because the Texas city could not offer sufficient guarantees of desegregated housing for its delegates.

“We would be deeply grieved if Senate Bill 6 presented us with the same difficult choice that church leaders faced more than 60 years ago,” Curry and Jennings wrote.

Texas Senate Bill 6 would require transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on what the bill calls their “biological sex” as stated on their birth certificate. The bill would also overturn local nondiscrimination ordinances in cities like Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

The state Senate has passed the bill but the House has not acted. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has called the Legislature back for the special session that began July 18 and said that he wants legislators to pass the bill.

In March, Curry and Jennings were the lead signers on an amicus brief filed by 1,800 clergy and religious leaders in a U.S. Supreme Court case involving transgender-bathroom use policies.

Jennings told council that she, Curry and others are also watching the legal challenges to Texas Senate Bill 4, which threatens law enforcement officials with stiff penalties if they fail to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. The bill also allows police officers to question people about their immigration status during arrests or traffic stops.

The text of the most recent letter follows.

July 19, 2017

The Honorable Joe Straus
Speaker of the House
P.O. Box 2910
Austin, Texas 78768

Dear Speaker Straus:

Since we wrote to you in February expressing our concern about Senate Bill 6, we have watched with gratitude as you have resisted efforts to enshrine discrimination against our transgender sisters and brothers into Texas law. We write now to urge you to remain steadfast in your opposition during the legislature’s current special session.

As the presiding officers of the Episcopal Church, we are firmly opposed to “bathroom bills” and particularly reject the idea that women and children are protected by them. As clergy who remember racist Jim Crow bathroom laws that purported to protect white people, we know the kind of hatred and fear that discriminatory laws can perpetuate.

We are especially thankful for your recent remarks acknowledging the acute emotional and spiritual damage that discrimination does to transgender people. In May, a review of more than forty studies conducted over nearly two decades found that transgender people attempt suicide 22 times more often than the general public. Your opposition to bathroom bills is one important way that you are helping to prevent tragedies in Texan families, and we are grateful for your moral courage and your leadership.

As you know, the Episcopal Church supports local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression and opposes any legislation that seeks to deny the dignity, equality, and civil rights of transgender people. Because we are currently scheduled to hold our triennial General Convention—a nine-day event that includes as many as 10,000 people—in Austin in July 2018, we are paying especially close attention to the news emerging from your special session.

We want very much to hold our convention in Texas. However, as we wrote to you in February, we must be able to ensure that all Episcopalians and visitors to our convention, including transgender people, are treated with respect, kept safe, and provided appropriate public accommodation consistent with their gender identities.

In 1955, we were forced to move a General Convention from Houston to another state because Texas laws prohibited black and white Episcopalians from being treated equally. We would not stand then for Episcopalians to be discriminated against, and we cannot countenance it now. It would be especially unfortunate if this special session of the Texas legislature presented us with the same difficult choice that church leaders faced more than sixty years ago.

We urge you to remain steadfast in your opposition to any bathroom bills introduced in the special session, and we thank you for your continued commitment to keeping Texas a welcoming state for all of God’s children.


The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies


Comments (98)

  1. Kristi B. Bradshaw says:

    Thank you so much for supporting the Trans community. Although I’m not part of this community, I have many friends that are. It’s so important to support them so they can live their authentic selves. No one should have to live a lie.

  2. Rev. Marie Alford-Harkey says:

    As the leader of a national multifaith non profit that advocates for sexual, gender, and reproductive justice, I am so grateful to see this statement. Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies Jennings, you are important national religious voices in the United States and your words matter so much. I pray that Texas will not pass this harmful legislation and it will not be necessary for The Episcopal Church to its General Convention from Texas. It is heartening to read that you are considering such a move out of concern for the safety of ALL deputies, bishops, and attendees and that you are bringing pressure to bear on Texas legislators.

  3. Justin Sarlo says:

    Thank you so much for the continued support of our community. The children in our community need love, understanding and support now, more than ever. Not a week goes by that I do not learn of a murder or suicide or attempted suicide from a member of the LGBT community, due to the hatred that continually surrounds us. Stances like this mean far more than you can possibly imagine. Thank you, again.

  4. Margaret Beth Brady says:

    I support the positive support the church is and has and hopefully will continue to give the transgender community as people who are coming into their truth and being able to live who they are with the support and love and respect we show each other as we live our own truths!! This is how I believe Jesus would see each person of the world!!
    Peace of the Lord,
    Beth Brady

  5. Samantha Haycock says:

    Thanks you for respecting the dignity of all people and standing with trans people, children of God.

  6. AnnaCarol Norman says:

    Thanks so very much for your inclusive state of mind.
    Thank you for your support of the LGBT community, same sex
    marriage and adoption, the trans community – for being against
    racism and sexism and all things that keep us from being a community of
    love in Christ!

  7. Leah Batty says:

    Thank you for supporting these vulnerable people!

  8. Ben Garren says:

    so thankful for Bishop Curry and President Jennings for their vocal support of the LGBTQ community and specifically the Transgender and Gender Expansive community. They remember that the first gentile Christian ever baptized was neither male nor female but a eunuch and desire a world where that first gentile Christian would be as accepted as any other individual.

  9. Kay Riggle says:

    Dear Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies Jenkins, Thank you for your support of our transgender siblings. You have been steadfast and unwavering in respecting the dignity of the transgender community. A heartfelt thank you to you both.

  10. Joyce Hardy says:

    Thank you both for your support of the trans community and for each person. This is a reminder that we consider all as children of God, our sisters and brothers in Christ, and intergal parts of the Body of Christ. I appreciate your diligence in truth telling.

  11. Alaina Kailyn says:

    I am so glad to see the leadership of the Episcopal Church standing up for the least of these.
    May God bless and keep his children safe from discrimination and oppression, and may you continue to do his work by fighting against it.

  12. Billie Wright says:

    I wish to express my extreme gratitude to TEC for taking such a loving stand on rights for all people. As a transgender woman I struggled my whole life conform what my Church and society told me to do, be a man. I finally could not lie to myself and others any longer. I had to transition to my true gender. Out of respect to others who may be offended by this a tryed to make a slow gradual transition. I might have saved my time when it finally did come to light what I was doing I was shunned by nearly everyone in the the church that I had been loved and respected by for my whole life. While I was allowed to attend I was clearly not one of them any longer. I was devisated. I could put up with maybe losing my job. I learned, in time, to get used to losing some friends. I could learn to put up with the occasional derision and threats of harm. What I could not stand was not being able to worship my Lord with Christan brothers and sisters. In interest of brevity let me just say that I was lead to The Episcopal Church by my Lord. There I experienced what I had always been taught. Christ is the head of the church and I was once again part of the body of the church. I was fully respected accepted and experienced the love of God from my brothers and sisters. I was received into the church almost 20 years ago. The Episcopal Church saved my life. Thank you. Thank you.thank you. I am so happy to be part of a church that puts the love and respect of all people ahead of politics.

  13. The Rev G Green says:

    To Presiding Bishop Curry & House of Deputies President the Rev Gay Jennings:

    Thank you for your stance for equality concerning our upcoming General Convention.

  14. Thomas Alexander says:

    I wholeheartedly believe that, sometimes, the strongest leadership is about speaking up. I’m thankful for these leaders speaking to the love that they know and hope for in the world. Thank you, Gay and Michael.

  15. Frank Dowd says:

    I am grateful for the support of the Episcopal Church, as noted by our Presiding Bishop and President of the House of Deputies, for all God’s children, including LGBTQ persons.

  16. Beth French says:

    Bishop Curry and President Jennings, thank you so much for making clear the Episcopal Church’s support for the LGBTQ community and, particularly, the Episcopal Church’s support for the safety of the Transgender community. Jesus taught us to love God and to love each other as he loves us. There is only one possible response if Texas Senate Bill 6 passes and that is to move our triennial convention to another location where our transgender participants and guests will be safe. Again, that you for making the position of the Episcopal Church clear.

  17. Katie Sherrod says:

    So glad and thankful for the support of the presiding bishop and president of the House of Deputies as we Texans work to defeat this discriminatory and unneeded bill. Assault and sexual assault are already crimes in Texas, no matter where they occur. This bill targets some of our most vulnerable siblings. We are working to defeat it in the Special Session just as we did in the regular session.

  18. Tracy Roberts says:

    Thank you Presiding Bishop Curry and HoD President Jennings for your outspoken support of the transgender community. I am grateful for your example of seeking and serving Christ in all persons and of respecting the dignity of every human being.

  19. Peggy Cromwell says:

    Thank you, Bishop Curry and President Jennings, for your support of the LGBTQ community and for your willingness to speak truth to power regarding the blatant discriminatory legislation proposed in Texas.

  20. You two represent the Episcopal Church and Christ Jesus so well. Thank you!!
    Presiding Bishop Curry, thank you for bringing us back into the movement!!!

    1. As a member of Integrity@ All Saints’ I know what a difference just knowing this can make in people’s lives.
      Along with Judge and Pastor Wendell Griffen y’all make a big difference.

  21. I am so grateful to belong to a church that recognizes and supports my trans brothers and sisters. I have learned so much from them and am awed by their courage and faith. Thank you, Bishop Curry and President Jennings for leading us to follow Jesus in truly and fully welcoming everyone!

  22. Rick Meredith says:

    Thank you so much for your support of the Trans community.

  23. Christy Ford says:

    I am saying prayers of thanksgiving for those who are setting a larger table in our church. As a Christian, I am always proud to be able to point to my denomination as a loving and progressive force in the larger community. Please, continue to support and welcome our brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community and continue to reach out to the poor and disenfranchised as we all seek ways to bring light and love into the world is ways that are pleasing to the Lord.

  24. The Rev.p Carolyn Woodall says:

    I wish to extend my thanks to Presiding Bishop Curry and President Jennings for their support of the transgender community within the church. Being transgender, I have been watching this issue with mounting anxiety as I will not set foot in Texas if it passes. It is a safety concern, which I appreciate your willingness to address.

  25. Vicky E. Mitchell says:

    The Church has done wonderful things for me and my absolutely necessary Gender Transition several years ago, and I know how necessary it is for all of us to be the person we were conceived and created in the Great Image of God to be. I am an older Trans* woman who’s life tells me how necessary it is for our children to grow up without the dark cloud over them that I lived with before I could even see it was a cloud or knew what the cloud was. The Church in my diocese in Los Angeles has allowed me to take my True Name and to vow my service as an elder of the church, all with the blessing of the National Church who is also in this action pledging its service to my youngest Trans* siblings. My love and my own commitment are strengthened by this support by my church.

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