San Antonio passed Thursday a nondiscrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Some Christian leaders have voiced concerns that the ordinance will by used to discriminate against them.
The ordinance passed, 7-3, with Mayor Julian Castro (D) voting with the majority. The ordinance has received much local and national attention. About 2,000 residents showed up throughout the week to voice their opinions on the issue, local news reports say, and a majority were opposing the ordinance. Many of those protestors represented black and Latino church groups.
The new ordinance will include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" among a list of categories for which discrimination will be prohibited.
Proponents argue it is necessary to protect gays, lesbians and transgender people from discrimination. Opponents claim it will infringe upon their religious liberty and free speech by preventing those who believe in traditional gender and sex norms from living according to their beliefs in certain situations. A business owner who opposes gay marriage, for instance, may be prevented conducting business with the local government, they argue.
Texas Values, a group opposed to the ordinance, says that over 11,000 email messages have been sent to city officials expressing opposition to the measure.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, a national organization representing the interests of social conservatives, praised the groups and people opposing the ordinance and claimed the ordinance will be challenged in the courts.
"This ordinance is a vicious attack on Christians that could be the first step to banning believers from local boards and commissions. ... We fully expect that this anti-Christian ordinance will be a magnet for lawsuits and will ultimately be struck down for violating the First Amendment rights of San Antonio residents," he said.