Houston mayor allows transgendered employees to use city bathrooms

Houston, TX - (NBC) - Members of the Houston Area Pastor Council are calling on Houston Mayor Annise Parker to rescind her recent executive orders that expands the city's anti-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected classes in Houston.

The new policy means that transgendered city employees can now use city restrooms and other facilities based on their gender identity.

"We are appalled, but not surprised, that this mayor has so early in her administration proven that we were right in asserting before the election that her sexual preference is central to her public policy. Her reprehensible actions to open women's restrooms to men make our case and expose her pre-election denials as fraudulent," stated Dave Welch, executive director of Houston Area Pastor Council. "The voters of Houston overwhelmingly passed ballot measures in 1985 and again in 2001 prohibiting the extension of these special rights based on sexual behavior. She is now acting by decree to impose her agenda in direct contrast to those votes."

Last week, Parker quietly issued the executive orders, in response to a request from Houston City Councilmember Jolanda "Jo" Jones.

Jones said she simply wanted to protect the "dignity" of one of her staff members, who is transgendered, and who was being hassled about using the women's employee bathrooms.

"To see a person in tears because of the old policy was not acceptable," Jones said.

In response to criticism from the Houston Area Pastor Council, Parker issued a statement on Tuesday.

"We are simply codifying, putting in writing, what has been the city's long-standing practice; we do not discriminate," she said.

According to a news release issued by the diverse group of local clergy, it plans to examine all possible remedies to overturn the executive order. The pastors' organization is reviewing the language of the executive orders, as well as considering a variety of legal, political and community actions.

"Forcing women, in particular, using city facilities to be subjected to cross-dressing men invading their privacy is beyond the pale and offensive to every standard of decency," said Pastor Steve Riggle, senior pastor of Grace Community Church and an executive committee member of HAPC.

Pastor Hernan Castano, senior pastor of Iglesia Rios de Aceite and a member of the Executive Committee of HAPC, also raised the challenge of applying definitions to these new categories as fundamentally open-ended.

"There are currently no legal boundaries of either of these two new categories of minority status, unlike the color of a person's skin, their biological gender or religious faith. Protecting 'expression' and 'identity' are designed to drop the bottom out of our moral foundation," he asserted. "This is not only morally wrong, it exposes the city and therefore, the taxpayers, to endless litigation and expenses. It is irresponsible and indefensible."

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.