Texas GOP Office-Seekers Blast Measure To Ban Discrimination Against Gays For "Trampling" Religious Freedom

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With primary season coming into view, heavy-hitting Texas Republicans are lining up against a San Antonio city ordinance that prohibits discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

The ordinance, which San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, a Democrat, called “long overdue” is nearly identical to laws that are already part of the municipal codes in other Texas cities, including Dallas, Austin, Houston, Fort Worth and El Paso. But with elections looming, Republicans are making a show of flaunting their conservative bona fides.

“These days, unfortunately, it’s campaign season,” Castro said. “What else would you expect?”

The ordinance would add the phrases “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the city’s codes prohibiting discrimination in housing and employment.

But Republicans say the new laws would stamp out their freedom to condemn gay people, which they say is their right under the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

The ordinance, which calls for a fine of $500, leaves religious groups out of its requirements.

“I consider this an attempt to impose a liberal value system over the objection of millions of Texans,” said Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples (pictured), a Republican candidate for Texas lieutenant governor. “It actually discriminates against those with deeply held religious views by pushing this agenda to the extreme.”

Most of the other Republican candidates for statewide office have also weighed in on the issue in similar fashion.

State Attorney General Greg Abbot, a candidate for governor, said that the ordinance would “trample” religious freedom and end up embroiling the city is “costly litigation.”

But gay rights activist Chuck Smith, of the group Equality Texas, shrugs off the vocal opposition from Republicans. Discriminating against people in housing and jobs because they are gay is “not a widely held Texas value,” Smith said.

While polls show that Texans largely oppose same sex marriage, they also show that most Texans do not believe employers should be allowed to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

SOURCES: Dallas Morning News, Associated Press