Rev. Dr. Michael Diaz has lived all across the country, but it was his devotion to equality and justice that propelled him to move back to his home state of Texas.
“Home for me is Texas. One of the reasons I moved back to the South is that I knew there were issues that needed to be worked on and I have a direct tie to the city and state. I wanted to come back and fight. I’m proud to be a Houstonian, I’m proud to be a Texan, but I’m not proud of the lack of protections for gay and transgender people in Texas.”
As a pastor at Resurrection Metropolitan Community Church in Houston, which is 95% LGBT, social justice and equality for all has been an integral part to many of Rev. Diaz’s sermons.
“Social action and social justice are part of our church and denomination and have been since inception. They are part of our core values—social action and social justice. And so we try to advocate for policies that recognize the sacred value and the inherent dignity of all people, especially those who have been marginalized.”
While Diaz himself is also a gay man, it was through being a pastor in Metropolitan Community Churches when he really began to realize how critical it is to protect gay and transgender people from discrimination.
“We did a poll and 75% of our congregation said they had experienced some form of discrimination in the areas of public accommodations, housing or employment… I know folks who have been fired from their job. I know folks who have been denied housing. I know folks who have been denied services, even public services, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Diaz shares one example of discrimination directed towards a woman in his congregation that he says is all too commonplace.
“One woman who came to us was fired from her job and she had no recourse. It was pretty clear why she was being fired. She had positive reviews, but for one reason or another it just wasn’t a good fit. I can’t tell you how many times LGBT people are told, ‘you’re just not a good fit for this company, we have to let you go,’ and underlying it all was plain discrimination.”
Today, Rev. Diaz is a vocal proponent for ensuring gay and transgender Texans are protected in the state they call home—a belief that he argues is in line with his faith.
“Jesus said love God and love your neighbor and part of loving your neighbor is not discriminating against anyone. Jesus calls us to love, and as far as I know discrimination is not a part of love.”
The Reverend continues, “As a religious leader, I am called to uphold issues of justice and equality. We’re all called to spread God’s love, to everyone regardless of whether they have the same belief systems or not. So as a religious leader, it’s my duty to not only preach that, but model it and embody it wherever I go.”
Rev. Diaz has struggled to articulate to his congregation that they are loved and accepted, because Texas law continues to treat gay and transgender people as unequal under the law.
“When I tell people that they are loved by God, that’s great, that’s beautiful, but then when they go into society, they find they don’t have the same protections as other Texans. I can preach to them how much God loves them, but if society does not affirm their beloved status and the inherent dignity they really have, then how far does this love from God really go?”
For Diaz, this all comes back to the Golden Rule—that we should treat others as we would want to be treated.
“Imagine going into a local deli, and all of us were served and one person was not served because of who they love or who they are or what they believe. We would be appalled by that. We would be embarrassed by that. Everyone should be served, everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. This is still America, this is what we’re supposed to be about. It would not only hurt our folks, but tear at the fabric of who we believe we are.”
By not ensuring gay and transgender Texans cannot be discriminated against, we are not living up to our American and Texas values argues Rev. Diaz.
“When we talk about respect, and respect for the individual in America, we all believe that we can be the greatest that we can be if we’re just allowed to work hard and pursue opportunities. Unfortunately many folks are not allowed to do that, especially if they are gay or transgender. You can be hindered from achieving your goals and have to work around so many different avenues simply for being who you are or love. That’s not the America I know. I still believe in the pursuit of happiness, which to me means that people are allowed to live their lives free of discrimination.”
“Freedom is a Texas value, and part of freedom also means freedom from discrimination. We respect one another, we’re proud of one another and we want to be free with one another and part of being free is protecting people from discrimination.”
More so, Diaz argues that without these critical protections, gay and transgender Texans must fear that at any moment they could lose their job or housing, placing an undue burden on LGBT families.
“Many people talk about family in our society, especially in Texas, and I believe nondiscrimination policies and ordinances protect families and gives stability for families to live out their God-given rights… LGBT families should not be treated different.”
“It’s an enormous stress. LGBT people have to worry about healthcare, putting food on the table for your family. You have to make money so you can support the family. Gay and lesbian Texans are trying to save up for their children’s college fund. So imagine getting fired because of who they are or whom they love? That doesn’t put families first, and that doesn’t help LGBT families at all.”
Rev. Diaz concludes by arguing that our laws reflect who we are as a society, and by ensuring that all gay and transgender Texans are protected from discrimination, the laws of our state would truly reflect the values of our people.
“We set the standard for who we are as a society. Our laws should reflect who we are and who we want to be as a society and as Texans. We have to pass laws that are affirming of all people.”