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September 2001           Issue #78



Houstonians May Vote on Domestic Partner Benefits for City Workers

Houstonians for Family Values has filed petitions that it hopes will force an election on whether the City of Houston should be prohibited from offering same-sex domestic partner benefits to its employees.  The petitions seek to amend the city charter to bar the city from providing employment benefits to persons other than employees, their legal spouses and dependent children, from providing “any privilege in promotion, hiring, or contracting to a person or group on the basis of sexual preference,” and from requiring entities doing business with it “to have any of the above benefits or policies.”  The group, a PAC headed by David Wilson, turned in petitions with over 22,000 signatures to the City Secretary.  If at least 20,000 are certified as registered voters (and there are no successful legal challenges), the measure will be placed on the city’s November ballot. 
The petition drive started in February after Mayor Lee Brown withdrew a proposal to offer health insurance to city employees’ same-sex partners.  Most local Republican and religious right leaders have not publicly supported the drive.  Fourteen local religious right leaders signed a letter opposing it shortly after it began.
While commending the effort’s goals, the signers believed that the timing, content, and context of the proposal threaten to do “considerable damage to the pro-family cause in Houston.”  City Council Member Rob Todd and Richard Hotze, who had sued to void Brown’s anti-discrimination executive order, were among the letter’s signers. 
Two local groups People For A Fair Houston and Progressive Voters in Action (PVA) are leading the campaign against the charter change.  People For A Fair Houston is a PAC that was formed specifically to oppose anti-gay ballot measures in Houston.  PVA is a “non-profit nonpartisan, grassroots campaign that exists to organize a community of progressive voters in Houston, Texas and turn them out to vote.”  People For A Fair Houston can be contacted at 713-523-1762 or; PVA at 713-521-7161 or ( ).



Debate Over Reproductive Rights Spurs Campaigns


Twenty-four organizations have launched a campaign “to organize and build support for pro-life Supreme Court appointments and to invigorate a pro-life America.” The “Shake the Nation” campaign is encouraging citizens to sign a petition to Senate leaders to confirm only “pro-life” justices and to send Senators baby rattles with a letter asking them to end abortion. The campaign is being led by the Center for Reclaiming America and supported by most major religious right groups.

At the other end of the spectrum, over three dozen education, health, religious and civil rights organizations have launched a public education campaign to “inform about the threat to First Amendment principles from publicly-funded ‘abstinence-only’ sex education.” The campaign, spearheaded by the National Coalition Against Censorship, is aimed at stopping Congress from reauthorizing funding for "abstinence-only" education and promoting comprehensive sexuality education.

The joint statement announcing the campaign said that abstinence-only education is an affront to church-state separation because it is promoted by religious groups and individuals in an attempt to impose their own beliefs on all students in public schools. In addition, it said, such programs are censorship and silence speech about sexual orientation, and censorship is ineffective and unnecessary.

Congress first approved funding for "abstinence only" programs in 1996. Reauthorization is expected to come up soon. The National Abstinence Clearinghouse said it is "getting nothing but support from the Bush Administration," reported Texas’ Free Market Foundation. "He has personally talked to me about doing anything and everything he can to support abstinence-until-marriage education," a representative said.


Religious Right Agenda in Congress


The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act (HR 2357), to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to permit churches and other houses of worship to engage in political campaigns, was introduced in the House and referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The 52 sponsors include the House’s religious right leaders and area representatives Brady, DeLay, and Paul.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2001 (S.1284 and HR 2692) to prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has been referred to committees in both chambers. The Concerned Women for America calls it “a bill designed to give homosexual pressure groups enormous power in the workplace.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S. 625) to provide federal assistance for prosecuting hate crimes. It would include attacks motivated by gender, sexual orientation, or disability as hate crimes. It is identical to a measure the Senate passed in June 2000 as an amendment to the military authorization bill. Before that provision was removed from the final bill in conference, a majority of the House voted for it in a nonbinding vote. The votes on the House version, HR 1343, are probably still there but a spokesman for Speaker Hastert said House leaders would not bring such legislation to the floor. The most likely tactic supporters can use is, after Senate passage, to attach the bill to a measure House Republican leaders consider essential and then insist on it in conference.

Several key religious right supporters have left or announced their impending retirement from Congress. They include Senators Jesse Helms, Strom Thurmond, and Phil Gramm and Reps. Steve Largent and Asa Hutchinson.

Local Calendar
Wed. Sept. 19  “To Train up a Child.  Religious Conservatives and the Struggle over Schooling.”
7:00 p.m.       Susan Rose, sociology professor and author/media consultant on contemporary evangelicalism:  “Christian Schooling: Fundamental, Alternative, Diverse?”  David Sikkink, sociology professor:  "Homeschooling 101: The Social Sources and Implications of the Homeschooling Movement."  Bruce Biddle, social psychologist:  “Varieties of Conservative Thought and Public Schooling.”  Sponsor:  Baker Institute for Public Policy, Rice University.  Location:  Baker Hall, Rice University.  Parking East Stadium Lot, Entrance 8 or 12.  RSVP to 713-348-5794 by Monday, September 17.  (The full flyer for this event is on Let Freedom Ring’s web site, events link). 
Oct. 5-6        Promise Keepers men’s conference: “Turn the Tide: Living Out An Extreme Faith” comes to Houston’s Compaq Ctr.  Features speakers, testimonies, and Christian musicians.



Quote of the Month


“Students should avoid wasting their education dollar on women's studies courses, most of which are propaganda for radical feminist, and often lesbian, ideology and behavior. … Beware of the corruption in the Sociology departments that teach that marriage is a dismal prospect for all, especially for women.  Beware of the corruption in the Economics departments that teach the failed economics of socialism rather than the successful free-market economics of Adam Smith and Milton Friedman.  Beware of the math and science courses taught by instructors who don't speak understandable English.”
Phyllis Schlafly, Eagle Forum, in column “Survival Message for College Students,”
August 29, 2001.

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