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San Antonio Bans LGBT Bias 'by Word or Deed'

(UPDATED) America's seventh-largest city follows 180 others in expanding non-discrimination laws. But focus on spoken statements is a first...

Update (Sept. 17): Baptist Press reports on the first likely casualty of San Antonio's new policy: major meetings by Southern Baptists at the city's convention center.

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Update (Sept. 9): Religion Clause clarifies the details of San Antonio's expanded non-discrimination policy.

The controversial "word or deed" portion was amended to no longer focus on past statements by city officials. The final wording:

No appointed official or member of a board or commission shall engage in discrimination or demonstrate a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group of persons, or organization on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, while acting in their official capacity while in such public position.

The ordinance also states, "Nothing herein shall be construed as requiring any person or organization to support or advocate any particular lifestyle or religious view, or advance any particular message or idea."

Baptist Press offers more on the free speech and religious freedom concerns of the ordinance's critics.

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Nearly 200 cities nationwide ban discriminatory actions against LGBT residents. But yesterday, San Antonio—the seventh-largest city in America—became the first to prohibit the election of city council members who have demonstrated a past bias against gay and transgender people by their spoken words, not just their deeds.

The city council's new anti-discrimination ordinance states, "No person shall be appointed to a position 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."

The New York Times reports more details:

"The ordinance adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of classes protected from bias, including race, religion, age and disability. It affects city employees, city contracts, housing and city officials as well as members of municipal boards and commissions. It also applies to restaurants and other businesses, making it unlawful to deny anyone any services available to the general public on the basis of sexual orientation or any of the other protected classes. Language was added that no person or group was required to support or advocate "any particular lifestyle or religious view."

Only three out of 11 council members voted against the ordinance. Approximately 180 other cities have passed LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances, including the Texas cities of Dallas, Houston, Austin, Fort Worth, and El Paso.

More than 700 people attended a Wednesday meeting that lasted past midnight, giving their testimonies concerning the ordinance. With opposition coming from heavy-weight Texas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, many religious leaders also spoke out against the policy, saying it denied Christians the right to free speech.

"The problem I have is that you criminalize us if we speak our faith," said Marc Longoria, pastor of My Father's House Church, according to the Associated Press (AP). "We are Christians all the time. We don't have an on and off switch."

Supporters of the ordinance, including San Antonio's Democratic Mayor Julian Castro, said the anti-bias policies were long overdue in the conservative city. "This ordinance is about saying there are no second-class citizens in San Antonio," said Castro, according to the AP.

CT has previously noted how such ordinances have led Christian groups to stop offering foster care programs, as well as debate over whether such withdrawal is necessary.

CT also recently noted a significant court ruling against photographers refusing same-sex weddings.

Posted:September 6, 2013 at 11:58AM
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San Antonio Bans LGBT Bias 'by Word or Deed'