PHOTOS: Texas faith leaders call for end to anti-LGBT discrimination

With political battles over marriage and nondiscrimination measures heating up, hundreds of clergy and other people of faith gathered at the Texas Capitol today to call on lawmakers to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Speaking at an event on the Capitol steps, the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas noted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of his congregation.

“The idea that any of them might be discriminated against under state or local laws is absolutely unacceptable,” Folkerth said. “Not only is this unacceptable to me as a minister of the Gospel, but it’s unacceptable to straight members of my congregation, who cannot fathom why any community in Texas would discriminate against LGBT people.”

United Church of Christ minister Leslie Jackson of Houston called on Texans to embrace marriage equality for LGBT people and oppose discrimination in employment and housing.

“No one should be turned away from a job or denied a place to live just because of who they are,” Jackson said at the Capitol event. “Surely all of our diverse faith traditions and differing beliefs can come together around this simple value: having a roof over your head and keeping a job should not be based on what you look like or who you love.”

The Rev. Michael Diaz of Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church of Houston echoed his colleagues.

“Like the majority of people across this great state, we believe our religious faith should lead us to anti-discriminatory love, not unjust discriminatory laws and practices,” Diaz said. “No one’s religious beliefs should trump the civil rights of another.”

The Rev. Leslie Jackson led the crowd in calling for equality for the LGBT community.

Following the event on the Capitol steps, advocates representing scores of congregations from around the state dispersed throughout the Capitol, visiting legislative offices to spread the message of support for LGBT equality.

Lawmakers this session are considering measures that would, among other things, bar state contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and open the door to marriage equality for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, legislators are also considering measures that would gut local nondiscrimination ordinances. And House Bill 623 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would strip salary and benefits from any state employee who complies with a future court decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The Faith Advocacy Day event was co-sponsored by Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network. Speakers urged people of faith to visit TexasBelieves.org to sign up in support of LGBT equality and against discriminatory laws. Check out the rest of the photos provided by Equality Texas: