SAN ANTONIO – As San Antonio lawmakers consider a new anti-discrimination ordinance that would protect residents based on “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” local pastors and Christian legislators are gathering to oppose the controversial measures, which they believe conversely discriminate against Christians.
As previously reported, San Antonio city council members have been working on “unprecedented” non-discrimination policies for the past several months. One of the sections of the proposed ordinance equates “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to race, religion, and veteran status, deeming it illegal to “discriminate” against anyone based on these qualities.
Following public outcry over the proposal, city council recently released a new draft of the ordinance, which was obtained by local affiliate KSAT.com. In referring to the controversial non-discrimination policies, the ordinance now states that “[n]othing herein shall be construed as requiring any person or organization to support or advocate any particular lifestyle.” Councilman Diego Bernal—one of the primary supporters of the ordinance—says San Antonio residents have no reason to be wary of the proposal.
“We are not breaking new ground or doing anything revolutionary,” Bernal wrote in a recent statement. “We are merely doing what more than 180 cities and towns have done, which is to say that everyone deserves to live free from discrimination. Houston, Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Ft. Worth, Waco and Brownsville already have theirs in place. Every member of our community deserves the same.”
Some local religious leaders have voiced support for incorporating sexual orientation and gender identity into the proposed law. At a city council meeting open to the general public, Mick Hinson of San Antonio’s “Metropolitan Community Church” praised the new measures, remarking that homosexuals today feel threatened and insecure.
“People have given their lives for freedom in this country,” Hinson stated. “How many more have to die because they live in fear?”
However, many pastors and ministers in the San Antonio area continue to express qualms over the city council’s ordinance. As reported by San Antonio Express-News, over 350 black and Latino Christians flocked to city hall on Tuesday, not only to condemn the proposal, but also to rebut common claims that homosexual behavior is comparable to the color of one’s skin.
“We oppose the ordinance on a philosophical basis,” said Charles Flowers, an African American pastor, “because it is based on the notion that those who choose to practice a certain lifestyle cannot change. Yet the preponderance of evidence refutes this.”
“We oppose the ordinance on the basis of association,” Flowers continued. “The HLGC—homosexual, lesbian and gender-confused community—has sought to piggyback on the civil rights movement. The current HLGC agenda is not a legitimate extension of the civil rights movement. Therefore, we have come to announce a divorce between the civil rights movement and the HLGC agenda, citing irreconcilable differences.”
Liberty Counsel (LC)—a non-profit organization committed to protecting religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family—organized several events last week to rally San Antonio pastors to oppose the non-discrimination ordinance.
“This ordinance is dangerous,” LC explained in a recent press release about the events.
“This ordinance is not about preventing discrimination,” Mat Staver, founder and chairman of LC added. “It is about promoting an intolerant agenda directed at Christians, people of faith, and those who believe that homosexuality is contrary to the natural order. This ordinance will punish people because of their views on human sexuality. Everyone must wake up and realize the agenda behind this ordinance before it is too late.”
In addition to pastoral opposition, several prominent Texas lawmakers have criticized San Antonio’s proposed new measures. Greg Abbott, currently the leading front-runner for next year’s gubernatorial elections, says the ordinance would rob residents of religious freedom.
“Religious expression is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and this ordinance is also contrary to the clearly expressed will of the Texas Legislature,” Abbott stated, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Although the proposal has been couched in terms of liberty and equality, it would have the effect of inhibiting the liberty of expression and equality of opportunity for San Antonians.”
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz also expressed disapproval of the San Antonio measures, opining that “it is encouraging to see so many Texans standing up to defend their religious freedoms in light of the misguided proposal put forth by the local city council.”
Opponents of the proposed ordinance cite instances in other states where similar non-discrimination measures have led to Christians being forced to accommodate homosexual practices or lifestyles. As previously reported, a Christian photographer in New Mexico was recently told by the state supreme court that she must shoot same-sex ceremonies despite her convictions not to participate. Christian bakers, florists and bed and breakfast owners in states across the nation are also being punished for declining to facilitate homosexual ceremonies due to their convictions not to “be partaker of other men’s sins.”
Still others fear that the San Antonio proposal might lead to more laws embracing transgenderism, such as California’s recently-signed “bathroom bill.” A petition filed Wednesday by the group “GetEQUAL TX” demands that city lawmakers expand the ordinance to allow transgenders free access to opposite-sex restrooms. To date, the petition has received approximately 200 signatures.
Dan Patrick, a Texas state senator currently in the race for the lieutenant governor position, said Christians should persevere in their fight against the measures.
“The proposed San Antonio ordinance runs counter to the Holy Bible and the United States Constitution,” Patrick wrote in a statement. “I am [pleased] to stand with the faith community leaders of San Antonio against this ordinance. I hope the San Antonio City Council considers the harm this ordinance will perpetrate on those who share my faith as well as the inevitable litigation before adopting this politically motivated measure.”