SAN ANTONIO – The 7th-largest city in the United States might soon implement a non-discrimination policy that would ban individuals who have expressed disapproval of homosexuality from serving in city government positions.
Late last month, the San Antonio City Council officially proposed changes to the city’s non-discrimination code. The revised ordinance is 21 pages long, and features a couple of highly controversial measures that have generated significant attention after being brought to light.
Of these policy changes, the most controversial measure is a suggested revision to the charter’s “Prior Discriminatory Acts” section that could seriously jeopardize Bible-believing Christians’ ability to hold positions in the San Antonio city government.
“No person shall be appointed to a position,” the proposed ordinance states, “if the City Council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age, or disability.”
Following this rule, the non-discrimination policy explains that if a city official or member of a commission commits such offenses, punishment will be rapidly enforced.
“Violation of this standard shall be considered malfeasance in office,” the code reads, “and the City Council shall be authorized to take action as provided by law to remove the offending person from office.”
In the current version of San Antonio’s non-discrimination policies, discrimination is technically only applicable to race, color, religion, national origin or sex. However, the new guidelines are designed to make “revisions to outdated terminology,” and thus introduce “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as possible discriminatory areas. Therefore, any city employee who expresses (or has expressed) opposition to homosexuality could be punished, if these new measures are implemented.
According to the ordinance’s definitions, “gender identity” means “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.” Similarly, “sexual orientation” is defined as “an individual’s real or perceived orientation as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or asexual.”
Immediately following the publication of the ordinance draft, some San Antonio residents expressed concern over the draft’s far-reaching provisions. A KHOU article quoted one resident as having qualms over the possibility of a “Paula Deen moment,” where a slip-up or mistake from the past could result in major repercussions later on.
However, many religious leaders are now seriously considering the negative effects the sexual orientation and gender identity rules would have on Bible-believing Christians seeking public office. In an article this week, a writer for Biz Pac Review stated that “Christians need not apply” for city government positions if these procedures are enforced. Charles Flowers, a pastor in the San Antonio area, said the proposed policy revisions are “unprecedentedly wrong.”
“The ordinance … says that if you have at any point demonstrated a bias—without defining what a bias is or who will determine whether or not one has been exercised—that you cannot get a city contract,” Flowers told OneNewsNow. “Neither can any of your subcontractors [who have demonstrated a bias] sign on to the contract.”
Flowers is a representative of Faith Outreach—a ministry committed to evangelizing and mentoring individuals from all different backgrounds and walks of life. Since Faith Outreach is based out of San Antonio, they released a detailed analysis this week of why the city ordinance would infringe upon the rights of Christians.
“[T]he proposed ordinance includes ‘words’ against sexual orientation or gender identity as discriminatory acts,” the document explains. “It allows City Council to prohibit those that speak their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality from serving on city boards. This violates First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of religion. … For example, if a person publically expresses their religious belief that homosexual behavior is a sin—even if this expression is at a church service—that person could be frozen out of involvement with city government.”
According to KHOU, San Antonio City Councilman Diego Bernal described these proposed ordinances as just “the bare minimum,” implying that even more changes might be coming soon. But Flowers says these measures must be thwarted before it’s too late.
“They said they’ve never seen this kind of language in any other ordinance in any other city that they’ve dealt with,” he remarked. “It is unprecedentedly wrong—and of course the citizens of San Antonio must stop it.”