Rev. Mark Edmiston-Lange spoke at the Houston City Council’s Quality of Life Committee hearing to introduce Mayor Parker’s proposed Equal Rights Ordinance on Wednesday, April 30, 2014. The following text is Rev. Mark’s complete statement in favor of the ordinance, although he was only able to deliver about half of it in the time given..

Good Afternoon Mayor and Members of City Council.  I am Mark Edmiston-Lange, co-minister with my wife Becky at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston.

I want to tell you about a child in my congregation, 13 years old.  The child’s mother had joined the congregation several years ago because a 13-year-old child can be quite a challenge.  But I say “child”, and not “boy” or “girl” because Francis’ sexual expression was very ambiguous.

To be honest, the first time I met Francis I was a little wary.  I didn’t know what to say or think and if there’s one thing a preacher does not like is not knowing what to say or think.  But over the months ahead I got to know Francis a bit more – smart, funny – and fearful.  Fearful because on a good day Francis encountered people who were wary; and on a bad day fearful, even hateful, even though there was nothing fearful about him.

Unitarian Universalists have a long tradition of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person. That affirmation on my part doesn’t necessarily help others become better people, it helps me become a better person. There are days when I do not measure up, such as that first day when I met Francis.  But any one of us can learn.  I am saddened that there are many who want Francis to be someone other than the beautiful child of God that Francis was born to be.  I am profoundly worried that Francis might become the victim of someone else’s fear.  So it’s important for me to let Francis know who’s got his and her back.  Just so, this ordinance will not help the citizens become better people, but it can help us be a better city.  There are lots of Francises out there, and it would be a good thing that this city, long known for its very big heart, could say to Francis – hey, we got your back.

It is a sad fact that some are alarmed by the open presence of LGBTQ folk in our city.  My best advice to those who are alarmed is pretty simple – listen before you speak and get to know people before you form an opinion about them.  Above all, find the way that helps your own heart grow.  None of us have to be perfect but all of us can be and do better.