Texas Christians divided over transgender 'bathroom bill'

Christians in Texas are deeply divided on a proposed "bathroom bill" that involves the limiting of transgender individuals' access to restrooms and changing facilities, with the liberals opposing the measure and the conservatives demanding its passage.

(REUTERS / Jon Herskovitz)Transgender activist and San Antonio architect Ashley Smith speaks at a rally against a so-called "bathroom bill" being considered by the Republican-dominated Texas Senate at the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, U.S., July 21, 2017.

On Aug. 1, liberal church leaders attended an interfaith gathering outside the capitol in Austin. Cathedral of Hope senior pastor Neil Cazares-Thomas is one of the religious leaders openly opposing the transgender bathroom bill, calling for the acceptance of LGBT individuals and of same-sex marriage, The Guardian reported.

For Cazares-Thomas, the proposed transgender bathroom bill reeks of "bigotry and discrimination" in the name of religion. He said the Christian faith teaches people to help the poor and the marginalized, and not doing that is failure to exhibit Jesus Christ's faith.

On Thursday, around 150 religious conservatives used the same area for a rally organized by the Texas Pastor Council in support of the proposed transgender bathroom bill. They distributed an open letter endorsed by over 770 ministers in the state which voiced concern over what they perceive as a threat to traditional family values.

"It really is a moral issue," said TPC executive director Dave Welch. "It's a public decency issue, it's a public safety issue, there are a variety of factors to it. It's not overtly religious at all. Unfortunately it seems like the only significant voice left that has any framework of opposing such an ordinance has come from the church."

Last month, more than 250 transgender activists and business leaders called on a Texas State panel to drop the proposed bathroom legislation as they said it would harm the state's economy. The issue has already led to the loss of $66 million worth of convention business and there is a possibility of losing $1.4 billion in conventions, sports, and other events if the measure is enacted, Reuters detailed.

Senate Bill 3 sponsor Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, on the other hand, said the measure is more than just about bathrooms. She said it was "about finding a balance between the right to declare your gender and the right of a parent to protect their child." 

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