Changes to a San Antonio city ordinance have some worried that same-sex marriage opponents may face problems when running for public office.
The section under scrutiny is Section 2-552, which addresses Appointed Officials, Board, and Commissions. The legislation alters three sub-sections within Section 2-552. Prior to the revisions, the ordinance protected appointees from being discriminated against based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and age group. But the sections, which together cover the appointment process, past history, and conduct guidelines for appointed officials, now extend discrimination protection to people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity as well. Here is a screen shot of the updated legislation, with the revisions in red:
Sections B and C are causing the most controversy amongst people in the city. Some are worried that if they speak out against same-sex marriage, they will be prevented from holding public office due to the new revisions.
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Steve Branson, pastor of Village Parkway Church in San Antonio, recently spoke to Texas news station KHOU-TV about his concerns with the ordinance.
“A religious view: either you have one or you don’t, it is still a religious view — and if I don’t attain to their view, then I’m out of the picture completely,” he said. “It’s a stifling of free speech.”
But San Antonio council member Diego Bernal says that’s simply not the case. Bernal says the changes are about protection against discrimination, which is a separate issue than the freedom to speak one’s opinion.
“We’re simply adding groups to the list. Saying you should not be able to discriminate against these groups, here they are, it’s that simple,” he said. “You know I’m a person of faith, I have no interest in infringing on the first amendment rights of my church, or my pastor so nothing in here does that and it won’t.”