A bill before the San Antonio City Council that aims to protect new groups from discrimination could instead encourage bias against Christians and those who believe in traditional marriage, critics are charging.
More than 700 people turned out at City Hall to debate the proposed ordinance, which would add sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status to existing protections against bias based on sex, race, age and religion.
The proposed law has pitted gay rights activists against religious conservatives, and drawn criticism from Texas GOP heavyweights Sen. Ted Cruz and state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who charged the ordinance would trample on religious freedoms and invite lawsuits.
The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, which bills itself as the nation’s “largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans,” said nearly 180 other U.S. cities have similar protections. However, critics said San Antonio’s ordinance would become one of the most far-reaching in the nation.
“This is breathtakingly broad and clearly an attack on religious freedom,” said Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, one of the groups working with local churches to defeat the ordinance. “There’s no question people will lose their jobs as a result of this. Businesses owned by Christians will be targeted for complaints under this human rights ordinance.”
Staver believes the ordinance is written so broadly that holding the belief that same-sex marriage is wrong, or even attending a church where the pastor speaks out against it could be interpreted as a bias – thus disqualifying one from working for the city.