Unfortunately, it appears that the Houston GLBT Political Caucus, like HRC before them, is throwing the transgender community under the bus. Members of the Caucus Board encouraged candidates in the current election to support and seek the endorsement of the anti-transgender group, the Baptist Ministers of Houston Area and Vicinity (there are several variations of their name). The Baptist Ministers of Houston Area and Vicinity (HBVHAV) ran false anti-transgender advertising during the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) fight, falsified petitions to force HERO onto the ballot, and have continued anti-transgender activities into 2017.
In response to questions from candidates based on rumors they were hearing, Caucus President Mike Webb sent a message to screening chairs in late January of 20181. In the message, Webb confirmed that while the Caucus considered HBVHAV to be an anti-LGBT organization but, Webb left it an open question as to whether candidates should accept their endorsement. At about the same time, Caucus Board member and Election Committee chair, John Humphries, was contacting candidates, facilitating their meeting with HBVHAV, and requesting that the candidate support and seek the endorsement of HBVHAV.
Humphries claimed that he was doing this at the request of the Caucus President, that he was officially representing the Caucus and, according to several concerned political candidates, wore his Caucus logo shirt while facilitating HBVHAV endorsements. Due to this misrepresentation, several candidates did accept an HBVHAV endorsement solely based on the request from the Caucus that was delivered by Humphries2. Other Caucus board members were not aware of what Humphries and Webb were doing, and the Caucus general membership was not told about these activities.
This situation came to light when Jason Westin, a candidate for the Texas Congressional District 07, claimed that the Caucus asked him to accept an HBVHAV endorsement. While Westin had been approached by HBVHAV in early February, he declined their endorsement after speaking with a transgender Caucus member familiar with HBVHAV’s rabidly anti-trans propaganda campaigns. However, when Caucus screener Alexis Melvin met with Westin later in the month, Westin disclosed that he had accepted the HBVHAV endorsement at the request of the Caucus. Specifically, Westin said that Humphries had approached him, at the request of Webb, to encourage him to accept the HBVHAV endorsement. Westin claimed that Humphries arranged a meeting with HBVHAV for him and Beau Miller, where he explained that the Caucus was on good terms with HBVHAV. According to Westin, Humphries claimed to be acting under Webb’s direction and representing the Caucus.
After Westin’s experience became known, Melvin sent Webb a message2 asking about the situation. Webb responded that Westin’s claims were inaccurate, but gave no specifics. Further investigation showed that Westin’s account of how he came to accept an HBVHAV endorsement was substantially accurate. Shortly after that, Webb claimed that Humphries “had gone rogue,” but indicated to candidates that Humphries was, in fact, representing the Caucus.
Corroborating Westin’s accusations is another candidate who related virtually identical experiences and yet others who saw Humphries at an HBVHAV meetings wearing his Caucus shirt and assumed that HBVHAV and the Caucus had a working relationship. When they asked about HBVHAV endorsements, they too were told they should treat the endorsement like any other. While Caucus President Webb has known about this issue for over a month, Webb has taken no action. Most worrisome, is Humphries assertion that the transgender community has no place at the table when discussing this issue, even though it was the transgender community that was directly and maliciously attacked by HBVHAV during the fight to protect HERO. The Caucus mission statement reads:
Founded in 1975, the Houston GLBT Political Caucus is dedicated to eliminating prejudice, violence, and injustice against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people through education, activism, and political advocacy. Our goal is to create a world where all human beings are guaranteed freedom, equality, and opportunity.
In support of this mission, transgender Caucus members are encouraging community members to let the Caucus Board know how you feel about Caucus Board members urging political candidates to accept endorsements from an anti-LGBT –and vehemently anti-trans– group at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note 1: On January 25, Webb sent the following to the screening chair:
I appreciate everyone’s commitment to ensure they are following the Caucus’ screening and endorsement policies. To provide clarification, a list of known anti-LGBTQ+ organizations are included at the end of this e-mail and we will make sure to include this list on all screening questionnaires going forward to eliminate any confusion.
The Caucus does not ban anyone from accepting an endorsement from any other organization or individual. Our questionnaire does ask if you would accept an endorsement from a known anti-LGBTQ+ organization or person and we recommend that you answer honestly. The few times we have witnessed a candidates’ endorsement come into question is when our members feel they were misled during our screening process.
As you will see the Caucus currently includes the organization most have questions about, the Baptist Ministers Association of Houston & Vicinity PAC (Vicinity), as an anti-LGBTQ+ organization primarily due to their campaign against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Due to a current dialogue the Caucus is having with Vicinity, this may very well change in the future, but as of now if you seek any endorsement from the list below, we recommend being honest with our members and be prepared to answer their questions on why you sought that endorsement. Just to add context, we are aware of Caucus members and even a previous Caucus president that has received the endorsement of Vicinity and the Caucus simultaneously in the past, which should be evidence that if you demonstrate your commitment to LGBTQ+ equality you will receive a fair chance.
Do not hesitate to contact me directly if you have any additional questions (Mike.Webb@thecaucus.org or 713.443.xxxx – it’s okay to text). Please see the list below:
U.S. Pastors Council
Texas Pastors Council
Houston Area Pastors’ Council
The Conservative Republicans of Texas
Dr. Steven Hotze
Baptist Ministers Association of Houston & Vicinity PAC
The information presented to you is inaccurate.
Houston GLBT Political Caucus
> ——-Original Message——-
> From: Alexis Melvin <email@example.com>
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Non-Caucus Endorsements
> Sent: Feb 27 ’18 8:10am
> Late last week I was told that John Humphries at your direction arranged
> for some candidates to meet with representatives of the Baptist
> Ministers Association of Houston and Vicinity and encouraged them, on
behalf of The Caucus, to accept the endorsement of the Baptist Ministers
> Association of Houston and Vicinity.
> I was aware that Brandon Mack was working to start discussions with this
> group last fall and I supported that effort. However I did express
> concern that there were no transgender individuals involved in these
> discussions since the transgender community was the target of the lies
> propagated by this group.
> This group and their current leader Max Miller, Jr. are known to have
> made anti-transgender attacks in 2015, 2016, and 2017 so it is difficult
> for me to understand how The Caucus could find their endorsement
> acceptable and even encourage candidates to accept their endorsement.
> What actions, if any, taken by the Baptist Ministers Association of
> Houston and Vicinity indicated to The Caucus leadership that this group
> was suddenly acceptable to The Caucus in spite of their history of lies
> and attacks against the transgender community. Was this change in how
> this group was viewed brought before the membership for a vote … or at
> least the board?
> I am hoping that what I was told is not accurate, but it did come from
> multiple sources.
> Alexis Melvin
> Transgender Foundation of America