Debate on changes to S.A.'s anti-discrimination laws heats up

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by Phil Anaya / KENS 5

Bio | Email | Follow: @phil_anaya

kens5.com

Posted on July 25, 2013 at 6:42 AM

Updated Thursday, Jul 25 at 10:11 AM

SAN ANTONIO -- A showdown heads to city hall in 2 weeks when the council takes up the issue of whether to modify and update it’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

Some council members want to strengthen the current ordinance by banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Councilman Diego Bernal is spearheading the changes and calls the current ordinance outdated.

“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,” said Bernal.
 
Critics argue the ordinance threatens to silence religious freedom because it proposes “No person shall be appointed to a (city) position” or board, if they ever “engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization.”
 
“Me standing here, or anyone standing here in opposition of this particular ordinance are not allowed to be on any committee in the city and that goes against my freedom of speech,” said Mike Knuffke of the San Antonio Family Association.
 
Bernal said that’s just not the case.
 
“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,” said Bernal.
 
According to Bernal, the ordinance puts San Antonio’s anti-discrimination laws on par with other Texas cities. He also admits any potential changes to the ordinance are just a draft right now and could be changed.
 
“There’s always an opportunity to make things tighter, to make things more clear so when you read you know what we’re trying to do, we’re open to all of it,” said Bernal.  
 
The San Antonio Family Association said it will continue to fight the potential changes to the ordinance.
 
“The people of San Antonio need to know litigation will start, small business owners need to know it will impact their business and the city needs to know we will file a lawsuit against them based on the fact it’s blatantly unconstitutional,” said Patrick Von Dohlen of San Antonio Family Association.
 
Councilwoman Ivy Taylor sent KENS 5 the following statement regarding the proposed changes.
 
“I voted to postpone city council consideration of this issue when it came to the Governance committee. While I believe that everyone deserves fair and equal treatment, I am concerned about the impact of any ordinance on businesses that contract with the City of San Antonio. I do not believe that we can legislate moral or religious convictions and am sensitive to that perspective. I am meeting with groups and citizens on both sides of the issue and working with city staff to make sure I understand the proposal before making a decision on how to vote. I welcome input from constituents. “
 
City council will begin to address the issue on August 2.

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