City Council this week ends its annual July vacation and when it heads back to work in August, one of the first things it will take up is that very controversial proposal to add sexual orientation and 'gender preference' to the list of protected classes under the city's non discrimination ordinance, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The San Antonio proposal has attracted the attention of gay rights and traditional values advocates around the country, as gay rights groups have the wind at their back following several positive court rulings this past summer.
Ross Murray, News Manager for GLADD, formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Discrimination, the country's highest profile gay rights group, says it is important for the winds of gay rights to be felt in Texas.
"The state does have somewhat of a negative perception about how it treats LGBT people," Murray said.
The proposal would bar any 'public accommodation' in the city from discriminating against someone who is gay or Lesbian or 'transgendered' in areas such as employment, housing, and providing services.
Supporters say it simply extends protections already in place on barring discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, age, or disability. They say these protections have made the local economy stronger without damaging any business, and adding protection for gays and lesbians would not cause any additional problems, while letting the world know that San Antonio is a welcoming place.
But faith based groups have expressed concerns about a provision of the proposal which would bar anyone who has discriminated 'by word or deed' against gays. They are afraid this would prevent anybody who has expressed a heartfelt belief that homosexuality is wrong from participating in the operation of the city, essentially barring evangelical Christians, conservative Jews, and almost all Muslims from participating on city boards and commissions.
But Murray says there is a big difference between feeling strongly that homosexuality is wrong, and actively discriminating against homosexuals.
"Those views don't necessarily mean they need to be actively persecuting them or discriminating against them in society," he said.
Advocates say many people strongly believe that interracial marriage is wrong...but discriminating against somebody because of the color of their skin has been covered in the city's anti discrimination policy for decades, and there has been no indication that anybody has been barred from serving on a city board due to expressing those beliefs.
In fact, Diego Bernal, the councilman who is backing the anti discrimination proposal, says he would be willing to drop that portion of the ordinance if it prevents it from passing.
Murray says the bottom line is that most people don't think it is right for somebody to lose their job simply because of their sexual orientation, which is now happening in San Antonio.
"Texas as a state doesn't have protections for this," he said. "This is an opportunity for San Antonio to actually lead the state in that process.