WASHINGTON, September 23, 2013 – The non-discrimination ordinance (NDO) passed by the city council in San Antonio, Texas on September 5 has led to efforts to recall Councilman Diego Bernal and Mayor Julian Castro. While this NDO is supposedly an effort to provide equal rights for protected classes, there are certainly sections of the ordinance that lead one to question whether discrimination against other classes will be the ultimate result.
In the sections and subsections where the protected classes are listed — “race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability” — political beliefs or affiliations are not listed as one of the protected classes.
Perhaps adding this would have alleviated some of the concerns from the thousands who protested against this ordinance, as The Washington Times reported on Sept. 19.
All contracts with the City of San Antonio must now include the following the language:
“As a party to this contract, [Contractor or Vendor] understands and agrees to comply with the Non-Discrimination Policy of the City of San Antonio contained in Chapter 2, Article X of the City Code and further, shall not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, age or disability, unless exempted by state or federal law, or as otherwise established herein.”
This contract, in effect, means that if you disagree with the lifestyle choices of and do not want to hire someone who is transgender, gay, atheist, or of any other protected class, or you prefer not to hire people for your private business who are not Christians, for example, you would be unable to hold a contract with the City of San Antonio.
This is one of the concerns of the organizations that are conducting the recall efforts: That Christians and conservatives are indeed discriminated against due to the language in this NDO.
Supporters of the NDO are saying that religions organizations and other nonprofits are exempted from this NDO. While that is true to some extent, carefully review this language from page 2 of the final version of the NDO:
“A religious corporation, association, society or educational institution or an educational organization operated, supervised or controlled in whole or in substantial part by a religious corporation, association or society does not violate the non-discrimination policy by limiting employment or giving a preference in employment to members of the same religion, as determined solely by the religious corporation, association, or institution.”
In application, this could mean that an evangelical Christian organization — for which being gay or transgender is against their beliefs — could technically be labeled as being discriminatory if they refuse to hire an evangelical Christian who is openly or otherwise known to be gay or transgender.
Where the organization would not be discriminating would only be if they chose not to hire a Muslim to fill a position, because that individual is not of the same religion, and an exemption is specifically provided for that.
Perhaps the city does not intend for this to be the case, but the NDO could certainly be interpreted to mean that the evangelical Christian organization would be in violation. And of course, if that is instead an evangelical Christian person who owns a business and would like to obtain a contract from the city, he or she may be unable to do so.
Some supporting the NDO have also mentioned that this ordinance does not require separate bathrooms, so it of course must be a moderate and well-intended law. However, page 3 of this ordinance defines ‘gender identity’ as “a gender-related identity, appearance, expression or behavior of an individual, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.”
Given that there can be no discrimination based on gender identity, this also leads to people who were born male but are now living as female being able to use a female restroom even though their biological and physiological elements are still male.
In the discussion of liberty and freedom, it is always said that one’s rights end where another’s begin. In San Antonio though, if you aren’t accepting of the acts of protected classes and you’re uncomfortable with that and try to prevent it from affecting you and your situation or business, you are the one who is discriminating, even in the restroom.
The city is prohibiting appointed officials and members of boards and commissions from discrimination. “No appointed official or member of a board or commission shall engage in discrimination 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.”
Rather than the city’s drafting and passing a 20 page ordinance, they could have written this quoted paragraph on one-third of a page codified it. Instead, another 19 pages were written with additional burdens and rules.
In section 2-572 (1(d)), the city is required to provide someone to help people who cannot write to file a discrimination complaint. This seems ripe for fraud, with the provided individual able to write whatever he or she wishes. Another option would be to allow a verbal, recorded statement to be submitted, but that is not mentioned as an approved form of filing a complaint.
Sections 2-592, 2-621, 2-625, 2-626, 2-627 and 2-628 contain language removing the right of a business owner to decide with whom that person does business. In Washington and Colorado there have been lawsuits filed against businesses that chose not to do business with gay people.
Government treating everyone equally is something we could all get behind. This ordinance does not simply provide for that, however, and instead appears to penetrate the protection permitted to individuals to live their lives and run their businesses as they choose.
It would seem that anyone who does not support a particular social or political ideology may be at risk in San Antonio.
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