About 250 faith lead­ers rally to de­nounce bath­room bills,

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - clin­dell@states­man.com Con­tact Chuck Lin­dell at 512-912-2569. Twit­ter: @chuck­lin­dell

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.

TAMIR KALIFA/ AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Re­tired Bishop Joel Martinez and Mufti Mo­hamed-Umer Es­mail (cen­ter) at­tend a rally at the Capi­tol on Tues­day to protest what they call dis­crim­i­na­tory leg­is­la­tion against trans­gen­der peo­ple.

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