The following opinion piece appeared in the August 8th edition of the Houston Chronicle online.
It seems all but certain that Houston voters will vote on Nov. 3 whether to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, or HERO for short.
Our city is headed for a divisive and ugly campaign season that has the potential to bring out some of the very worst of politics. It doesn't have to be that way.
A while back, I wrote a blog post about fear and how fear keeps us from living in love. Efforts to overturn HERO offer a real-time example of how fear can overwhelm good sense and cause us to make bad decisions.
As I said then, and I believe today, most fear is learned. And it is fear that is driving the effort to repeal an ordinance that's designed to protect everyone -everyone - from discrimination.
As a Christian, I am taught to love my neighbor as myself. When I search my heart, I believe we are all called to treat others with dignity and respect. Protecting others from discrimination is a way for me to live my faith and lead my congregation to be open and welcoming to all.
I believe that's what Jesus calls me to do.
He calls me to do it in this wonderfully diverse and open city, with a reputation as a place that treats people with dignity and respect. A repeal of HERO would send a very different message to the people living here and those who might consider moving here or opening a business.
The Equal Rights Ordinance is pretty simple, despite a lot of misinformation out there.
It ensures that no one in Houston can be discriminated against because of who they are or what they believe.
As the ordinance reads: "Houston seeks to provide an environment that is free of any type of discrimination based on sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy."
We need this law because discrimination still lives in this country. We've seen it everywhere, even here on the outskirts of our beloved city, just two weeks ago with the arrest of Sandra Bland. We saw it earlier this summer in McKinney when out-of-control police overreacted to teenage misbehavior. And, just a year ago this past week, in Ferguson, Mo.
Opponents of this ordinance are not thinking about all the Houstonians it protects. Instead, they are using fear - specifically, the perceived threat of male sexual predators dressed in drag entering women's restrooms. They want people to think that by protecting people from discrimination, we are somehow putting other people at risk. That's just not the case.
HERO is about a lot more than bathrooms, and playing on such fears does disservice to the people who have marched in the streets and risked their lives to ensure that all of us can sit at a lunch counter, that we can't be kicked out of our homes because of the color of our skin or who we love, and that all that matters in our workplace is whether we do a good job.
The truth is, protecting people from discrimination doesn't make crime go up and it doesn't put people at risk in the bathroom. Cities across this state and across the country have similar ordinances: There's no evidence of any increase in sexual assaults or attacks in restrooms.
That's fear talking. And we can't let fear turn us away from God's admonishment that we love one another.
Unfortunately, as the ordinance heads toward the ballot, I anticipate that an argument will develop that pits religion against nondiscrimination. As a pastor and the leader of a faith community, I know how important the freedom of religion and religious expression is. But this is not a battle between gay and transgender people and people of faith, no matter how a few people might portray it.
That's a false choice and it's meant to divide us.
Even though we may have different beliefs, I believe we should look for those things that we all share - love of our families, the desire to do good work, wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, and the love that God gives us all as his children.
Rasmus is a pastor, author and global humanitarian. He is co-pastor of St. John's United Methodist Church, located in downtown and Northwest Houston.