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Right-Wing Media Spread Myth That San Antonio LGBT Rights Ordinance Would Ban Christians From Office

July 25, 2013 12:43 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Conservative media outlets are distorting a proposed anti-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, Texas, claiming it would effectively ban Christians from serving in city office.

Promoted by the anti-gay Alliance Defending Freedom, the myth has surfaced on right-wing outlets WND and The Washington Times. WND claims that the ordinance would "penalize Bible believers," while the Times headline blared, "San Antonio proposal could set the stage for barring Christians from city council." The ordinance in question reads:

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.

Like the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which passed a key Senate committee on a bipartisan vote on July 10, the San Antonio proposal simply adds sexual orientation and gender identity to existing civil rights protections. As Councilman Diego Bernal, the proposal's sponsor, told the San Antonio Express-News, the sole aim of the proposed ordinance is to ensure that city officials don't "reserve the legal right to" discriminate against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Only the obsessively conspiracy-minded would see in the ordinance a sinister plot against Christians. Alas, "obsessively conspiracy-minded" is a fair description of much of the right-wing media.

Paralleling the misguided right-wing attacks on ENDA, several pastors have claimed that the proposal poses a threat to religious liberty. They - and their right-wing media allies - have seized on the language pertaining to those who have "demonstrated a bias" against any of the protected groups, claiming that merely holding conservative religious views on homosexuality could lead to charges of bias and disqualification from city office. As reported in the WND article, local pastors are concerned that the ordinance would "prohibit those that speak their religious beliefs regarding homosexuality from serving on city boards."

That horror story isn't supported by the evidence. San Antonio's current ordinance hasn't been used to police city officials' personal views on race, gender, or religion. That's because the ordinance is meant to prohibit clear cases of professional discrimination and bias - not bad personal thoughts.

Right-wing media's attacks on the San Antonio proposal represent but the latest example of the anti-equality movement's Orwellian strategy to depict LGBT rights - whether marriage equality or employment non-discrimination - as a danger to liberty.


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