San Antonio Considers Prohibiting City Workers from Expressing Bias Against Bisexuals

Shannon Quick | July 29, 2013 | 4:48pm EDT
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( – The San Antonio City Council is considering an ordinance that would ban anyone who speaks out against homosexuality based on their moral beliefs from being hired as a city employee or government contractor, including businesses owned by Christians.

The draft ordinance seeks to amend San Antonio’s Non-Discrimination Policy, which is based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Voting Act of 1964. (See SA-Ordinance.pdf)

According to the proposed ordinance: “No person shall be appointed to a position if the City Council finds that such a person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any persons, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion,, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability."

“Violation of this standard shall be considered malfeasance in office, and the City Council shall be authorized to take action as provided by law to remove the offending person from office,” the ordinance states.

Many members of the community have spoken out against its passage. At a June 5th City Council meeting, citizens expressed four major concerns during an open public comment period:

  • The proposed ordinance is a direct violation of the First Amendment’s protection of an individual’s freedom of speech and religion;
  • By not proving a compelling need for its introduction, the proposed ordinance is in direct violation of the Texas Religious Freedom Act;
  • The proposed ordinance sets up a de facto religious litmus test to participate in city government, which also violates Art. 1 Sec. 4 of the Texas Constitution prohibiting such a test for involvement in city government; and
  • The proposed ordinance does not offer any relief for religious purposes. Instead it creates the opportunity for council members to act unlawfully.

Citizens and local pastors have spoken out against the proposed ordinance, which they characterize as religious persecution.

Essentially, it’s a religious test,” Pastor Steve Branson of Village Parkway Baptist Church said. “If I don’t buy into the city’s religious views of life, then I’m not allowed to be a part of the city anymore — business or service,” he said in an interview with Texas Values, a public policy group.

The ordinance defines gender identity as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” It also defines sexual orientation as “an individual’s real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.”

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