Texas AG predicts San Antonio ordinance barring bias against gays, lesbians will result in legal fight

Published: Monday, Sept. 9 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

Julie Pousson, left, and Jennifer Echeverry, right, celebrate after a non-discrimination ordinance was passed by the San Antonio city council, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in San Antonio. The ordinance in part will prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Eric Gay, Associated Press

Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said San Antonio's far-reaching nondiscrimination ordinance violates free speech rights and will likely be challenged in court.

San Antonio joined nearly 180 other U.S. cities that have ordinances prohibiting bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, The Associated Press reported, when the city council voted 8-3 on Thursday to add lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to the city's nondiscrimination code.

But the San Antonio ordinance goes further than those in other cities by preventing appointees and members of city boards and commissions from engaging in bias “by word or deed.” Abbott says that violates provisions protecting freedom of speech and religion in both the Texas and U.S. constitutions, according to The Texas Tribune.

He said speaking out in favor of upholding Texas constitutional provisions barring same-sex marriage could prevent someone from holding office, working for or contracting with the city.

“And so if someone says we’re going to stand on the (state marriage) law, they would be guilty of violating that San Antonio ordinance. That’s just nonsensical and another reason why I think the San Antonio ordinance would be subject to a legal challenge,’’ Abbott said.

But Abbott wouldn't say if the state would sue the city over the ordinance.

The San Antonio law has pitted conservatives and liberals statewide against each other as well as leaders in the city's religious and LGBT communities. The debate captured national attention when the San Antonio Express-News published a secretly recorded meeting where Councilwoman Elisa Chan called gays "disgusting" and said they shouldn't be allowed to adopt children.

She defended her views before casting her vote Thursday.

“Over the course of this debate, tolerance has separated itself from understanding and has become a dictate to agree. I have not heard a single person who said he or she agrees to any form of discrimination,” Chan said. “Just because I disagree with the lifestyle choices of the LGBT community doesn't mean that I dislike them.”

According the AP report, San Antonio City Attorney Michael Bernard told the council the ordinance would apply to most city contracts and contractors. It prohibits council members from discriminating in their official capacity and forbids workers in public accommodation jobs, such as at restaurants or hotels, from refusing to serve customers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But opponents say the ordinance — which takes effect immediately — would also stifle religious expression of those whose faith teaches same-sex relations are a sin and that it does not have the support of most of the city’s residents, according the the AP.

“The problem I have is that you criminalize us if we speak our faith,” said Marc Longoria, 42, a pastor at My Father’s House Church. “We are Christians all the time. We don’t have an on and off switch.”

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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