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.

Faithfully,

The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry
Presiding Bishop

The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
President, House of Deputies


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Comments (98)

  1. Suzanne Edwards-Acton says:

    Thank you Bishop Curry and Rev GC Jennings. Proud to be Episcopalian. Proud to support my trans sisters and brothers.

  2. Thank you, Michael and Gay, for your leadership. It’s precisely what Jesus would have us do.

  3. Doug Desper says:

    Seems to be an organized applause going on here.

    1. Donna Price, CAPT, JAGC, USN (Retired) says:

      Because positive responses require “organizing?”

      1. Doug Desper says:

        If it is from Integrity, it is organized. Integrity has been well-versed at organizing responses that appear to be a groundswell from a wide representation of the whole Church.

        1. mike geibel says:

          The “thank you” comment string sounds eerily like the bobble-head “amends” echoing from evangelical congregations.

          Why not follow-up the current Texas bill with the California legislation requiring all current and future single-user bathrooms to be re-labeled for use by both male and female. Or private businesses could re-label all “Men’s” rooms as open for use by any gender, leaving only the Ladies Room off-limits to anatomically correct males–the proposed bill does not prevent this or require separate “Men’s Rooms.” This would eliminate the argument of male Peeping Tom’s invading the privacy of women using the Ladies Room, and also cut down the long lines at the women’s bathrooms that we often see at airports, sports arenas, etc. I’ve had women enter the Men’s Room when the lines are too long at the Ladies Room, and I don’t blame them and this has never caused a fuss.

          I guess the Church would rather play religio-politics advocating liberalization of societal norms than advocate common sense solutions.

  4. Tio Eshleman says:

    Thanks to the Presiding bishop for your support of the trans community. It is appreciated

  5. Bec Cranford says:

    Thank you for urging on goodness and love.

  6. Cathy Campbell says:

    I am the mother of a a transgender man and an Episcopalian. Thank goodness I can be both! I am so grateful to the church, to the Presiding Bishop, and to President Jennings for supporting and welcoming transgender people in the church and in society. It’s part of our baptismal covenant.

  7. Donna Price, CAPT, JAGC, USN (Retired) says:

    As a transgender woman Episcopalian, I could not be prouder nor more pleased that my church truly “loves thy neighbor as thyself.”

  8. Donna Price, CAPT, JAGC, USN (Retired) says:

    As a transgender woman Episcopalian, I could not be prouder nor more pleased that my church truly “loves thy neighbor as thyself.”

  9. Thank you, Presiding Bishop Curry and Pres. of the House of Deputies Jennings, for your witness to God’s unconditional grace, infinite creativity and love for ALL.

  10. Ana Hernandez says:

    Thanks Gay and Michael forkeeping at it and trying to talk sense into the legislators in Texas. I’m so grateful for your continued work to keep our trans siblings safe in the wolrd. Have you considered putting the churches money where it’s mouth is and moving General Convention to a more hospitable state? NC won’t work, but there are still a few good options!

  11. The Reverend Canon Susan Russell says:

    So grateful for the leadership of our PB and PHOD — modeling what it looks like to put our baptismal promise to “respect the dignity of every human being” into action.

  12. David Horwath says:

    I find this whole string of comments interesting because the subject is a distraction. I suggest that Bishop Curry and President Jennings concentrate on reversing three simple statistics:
    1. From 2011 to 2015 (latest year statistics are published) the number of active Episcopal parishes dropped by 3.3%
    2. From 2011 to 2015 the number of active members dropped by 7.4%.
    3. During the same time period the Average Sunday Attendance dropped by 11.9%.
    Perhaps TEC leaders should concentrate less on the cultural wars and being the thought police, and more on retaining their congregations.

    1. Kevin Miller says:

      The Episcopal Church is addressing this issue as well as continuing to be a voice for the marginalized!

      1. Kevin Miller says:

        My diocese’s new mission statement addresses the issues you bring up.

    2. Arthur Villarreal says:

      Your issues are real; just as injustice issues are real. I believe TEC has a struggling history with justice and congregational growth. Come to think of it, Jesus had that same kind of problem. The gift in our faith is that, I believe, TEC community is willing to live into that tension.

  13. Jeff Estevez says:

    Thank you for caring about trans people! I am part of the Independent Catholic Church but we work closely with the Episcopal church in our community and appreciate how much support LGBT (particularly trans) people receive, and being trans myself, this makes all the difference in the world. But please consider moving your gathering thing to a safe state–there are serious safety concerns there. Keep being a beacon of sanity and compassion! The world is watching and you’re setting the example.

  14. David Bentley says:

    Thank you Presiding Bishop Curry and President of the House of Deputies Jennings for standing up for the dignity of all of God’s children while standing against the creation of discriminating laws. Having grown up in Louisiana and Arkansas during the 50s and 60s and experiencing the ubiquitous discrimination that permeated society from the halls of government to the pews in churches, I am proud to see my church leaders speaking up for love and dignity as discrimination and hatred rear their ugly heads again.

  15. Barbi Click says:

    Thank you for doing this. It is good And right.

  16. Doug Davis says:

    Thank you Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies Gay Clark Jennings for your continued support of our community. As a gay dyed in the wool Episcopalian living in Texas, I can assure you that your support gives those of us living in places of extreme discrimination and bigotry hope. It is good to know that my church, and the two of you in particular, seek to serve Christ in all persons and respect the dignity of every human being.

  17. Hillary Gayle says:

    Thank you so much to Bishop Curry & President Jennings for your support of the trans community!

  18. Dane Allen says:

    Thank you, Presiding Bishop Curry and President Jennings for your support of the trans community.I am a lifelong member of the Episcopal Church and I am proud of the church’s stance on diversity.

  19. Janis McDermott says:

    Thank you Bishop Curry and President Jennings for taking a Godly and public stand against discrimination aimed at some of our most vulnerable citizens. All people are children of God, and all should be accepted, loved and respected for who they are. I commend you both.

  20. Tara Soughers says:

    Thank you Presiding Bishop Curry and President Gay Jennings for your witness, as well as reminding us and the world that we are called to share God’s love with all God’s children.

  21. Lauren Stone says:

    Thank you for supporting justice. It’s great to see religious people who actually practice compassion, acceptance and love towards others. Especially those who are most vulnerable among us.

  22. Liz Huskey Simmons says:

    It pains me that as followers of a God who defeated sin, death and fear, that so many are “functionally agnostic” when it comes to protecting themselves from perceived dangers. Fear almost always leads to harming others in the name of protecting ourselves. Thanks you, Bishop Curry and President Jennings for courageously calling that out.

    1. Bill Louis says:

      Oh Liz, I’m sorry you are in pain. If it’s functionally agnostic to protect ones self from perceived dangers then what do you suggest when it comes to psychopaths, thugs or others that would do us harm. How do we separate them out? Whats wrong with protecting ourselves? Do we wait until we are in imminent danger before we act? I don’t understand why we always need to bend over backward to accommodate the wants of a few? It never seems to be the other way around. I have nothing against transgendered people. If that’s what makes them comfortable then so be it. I just don’t want someone pretending to be a transgender to be in the bathroom with my grandchildren. Do I fear that could happen, yes. No one seems to understand that. I truely hope that TEC’s bulling of the people of TX is unsucessful. Move the Covention to a place where everyone will be happy.

  23. Jenifer Gamber says:

    Thank you, Bishop Curry and President Jennings for supporting the LGBTQ community. Your words and actions are bold examples of living the gospel imperatives of loving our neighbors. Thank you for your courage in standing with, and protecting the rights of, the trans community.

  24. Lisa Smith Fry says:

    Thank you Episcopal Church for taking this stance. The dignity of all human beings includes our transgender brothers and sisters. I fully support this effort to save the lives of people in the trans community who would be put at great risk if this legislation passes. Thank you for us standing by our baptismal promises.

  25. Jerry Anderson says:

    Thank you. All the support is needed and appreciated.

Comments are closed.