Welcome letters from the mayor’s office praised the National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws for efforts on behalf of “marginalized citizens.”
An organization advocating on behalf of accused sex offenders held its national conference in Houston last weekend to teach attendees how to lobby for criminal justice reforms, including the dismantling of sexual offender registries (SOR).
The National Association for Rational Sexual Offense Laws (NARSOL) argues that SORs are overbroad and unconstitutional. Formerly known as “Reform Sex Offender Laws,” the group was co-founded by an LGBT activist who goes by the pseudonym Alex Marbury, but the group changed its name in 2016 and distanced itself from Marbury’s efforts to change “age of consent laws.”
NARSOL held national conferences in Houston in 2019 and 2021, and each year the group touted welcome letters from Mayor Sylvester Turner praising the group for civil rights advocacy and calling Houston a “city that is welcoming and inclusive.”
“The City of Houston applauds your restorative justice efforts on behalf of marginalized citizens, and I extend best wishes for a memorable conference,” wrote Turner.
Turner’s Director of Communications Mary Benton told The Texan that the letters were created by the city’s ceremonial documents team, but that she had not approved them and the mayor had not seen them.
“The staff is directed to show me anything that could be sensitive or controversial,” said Benton. “They did not in 2019.”
Benton said new staff had been brought in who had assumed the language was approved because it had been published in 2019. She added that the team researches unfamiliar organizations and has issued 144 welcome letters to various groups in the last year. Benton did not know if the city had refused any group a welcome letter.
“Mayor Turner believes in diversity and inclusion, so we would not deny any group without thoughtful consideration and review,” said Benton, who did not respond to questions about whether a letter was sent for this year’s conference.