In the crosshairs: having lost the battle over marriage equality, the religious right aims its sights at the transgender community.

Author:Jones, Sarah E.
 
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Bans on same-sex marriage are now relics of the past. But for LGBT activists, the broader fight for civil rights isn't over yet. In municipalities across the country groups and campaigners affiliated with the Religious Right have re-focused their energies on a new target: anti-discrimination measures.

"They're grasping at straws to make people afraid that adding LGBT protections will hurt them," Rose Saxe, a senior attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT and HIV Project, told Church & State.

The tactics resemble the Religious Right's response to 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion in America: The U.S. Supreme Court settled the issue, but opponents began seeking ways to restrict the ruling's impact.

This isn't a new strategy. Attacks on local ordinances and state bills that prohibit discrimination against LGBT people precede Obergefell v. Hodges. A number of small business owners have challenged these laws, typically after they've been fined for violating them.

These cases have thus far not succeeded in courts. In 2014, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the New Mexico State Supreme Court's verdict in Elane Photography v. Willock, which found that a self-employed photographer had violated the state's anti-discrimination law by refusing to photograph a same-sex wedding. (The high court's refusal to hear the case left the lower court's ruling intact.)

And last February, a Washington district court judge ruled that Barronelle Stutzman, who owns Arlene's Flowers in Richland, Wash., had violated the state's anti-discrimination law when she refused to provide flowers for a same-sex wedding. The case, Irtgersoll v. Arlene's, Flowers, is currently on appeal.

But lesbian, gay and bisexual people aren't the only individuals targeted by the Religious Right. Transgender people are often singled out for special attacks, and these assaults appear to be growing.

In Houston last fall, those attacks crushed a proposed anti-discrimination measure known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). It would have created citywide protections for LGBT people and a host of others, but it faced major obstacles from the beginning.

The Houston City Council originally passed HERO in May 2014. At the time, the law enjoyed significant support from LGBT activists and the city's business community, but it lasted a mere three months before a legal challenge from local right-wing pastors halted its enforcement. The Texas Supreme Court eventually ruled that Houston must put the measure to a public referendum, and right-wing activists mobilized quickly to prevent it from remaining law.

"This ordinance will allow men to freely go into women's bathrooms, locker rooms and showers. That is filthy, that is disgusting, and that is unsafe," one ad blared.

That's typical of the rhetoric produced by the ad's creator, the Campaign for Houston. The group, organized by former Harris County Republican Party chair Jared Woodfill, latched onto the controversial issue of transgender rights as a way to defeat the measure.

On its website, Campaign for Houston damned HERO as an attack on the "traditional family" and a threat to "free speech and religious expression." Its members, it...

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